Part of IU volleyball’s weekend itinerary for its opening trip to Las Vegas is live shows and team dinners.
The Hoosiers will be on the road for their opening 11 games of the season, with the first three coming at the UNLV Invitational this weekend.
However, first things first for the team — the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
“All my attention is based on the next person that we play,” Coach Steve Aird said. “I told them I understand there’s a lot of lights and glitter in Vegas, and there’s a lot of distractions, but bad teams get distracted. Good teams take care of business and then have fun.”
Two of IU’s opponents this weekend — UNLV and Long Island University Brooklyn — are teams that lost to the Hoosiers last season.
“We’ve got to play our game, play smart and do the things we know how to do,” senior defensive specialist Samantha Fogg said. “We can’t make errors. We will beat teams if we don’t beat ourselves. That’s what we did last year against them and that’s what we’ve got to do against them this year.”
The games against UNLV and LIU Brooklyn will take place on Friday. Then, IU will come back on Saturday to close out the trip against Southern Utah.
With a new coaching staff and a message of “The New IU,” it is clear that a rebuild is underway at University Gym — soon to be at Wilkinson Hall.
However, a major key for the Hoosiers to achieve their goal of moving up from No. 13 in the Big Ten standings last season is its returning players.
Seniors like Fogg and right side hitter Elizabeth Asdell will bring key leadership to their team while also looking to go out on a high note.
“We’ve got a lot of people coming in, so letting them know how this program’s going to be when it’s all said and done is going to be my biggest thing,” Fogg said. “I’m ready to leave my impact on this program.”
Alongside the upperclassmen, IU has an incoming freshman class that earned Highest Honorable Mention from .
“They’re going to get the opportunity to compete from day one,” Aird said. “I don’t care if they make errors. I care if they’re doing what we’ve trained them to do for the last few weeks and playing within themselves and having fun.”
A major area of improvement from last season should be offense.
Last year, IU ranked last in the Big Ten in kills and assists.
“In a lot of ways we’re trying to keep things very simple,” Aird said. “We’ve got to be able to score. The teams at the top of the conference are the teams who have the best hitting percentages.”
A large addition to the IU offense comes from that freshman class, particularly from setter Abigail Westenhofer.
Westenhofer is coming off a senior season in high school in which she was on the 2017 Under Armour All-American Second Team.
“She plays really hard, she’s a tough kid,” Aird said. “What we need to really improve is offense, and we brought in Abigail as a setter. So, that allows us to do some things that we might not have been able to do before with the program.”
The stage is now set for act one of the rebuild, which will be underway this week.
One thing that is clear is Aird and his crew have caught the attention of fans. A team that averaged 1,373 fans per game last season saw more than 1,500 fans come out to the Cream and Crimson Scrimmage Aug. 18.
But before the team can begin to focus on attendance or when this rebuild will turn into something great, there is one thing on the players' minds right now — UNLV.
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