From the first point of the match, it was clear that No. 6 Minnesota would not let IU volleyball come close to pulling off an upset like No. 7 Illinois had done on Sunday.
In the first set, Minnesota jumped out to an early lead that would eventually reach its peak at 23-13. The Hoosiers did put together a stretch of eight-straight points, but the set would end with no ties or lead changes as the Golden Gophers won it 25-18.
“You can’t give really good teams lots of opportunities to score,” IU Coach Steve Aird said. “We didn’t pass great. We didn’t serve great. When that happens, especially against a really good team, you’re going to have some struggles.”
The run the Hoosiers had at the end of the first carried to some momentum in the second, where it was back and forth until 12-12. From there, Minnesota flexed its muscle to go on a 5-0 run and eventually take the set 25-19.
“Even if they are significantly better than us, there’s always ways to pick off teams,” sophomore outside hitter Kamryn Malloy said. “You see when the scores get tight, we can hang with people and it’s just about being consistent.”
The third set was taken easily by Minnesota with a score of 25-14.
On numerous occasions throughout the match, it was clear that Aird was upset with his team’s showing. However, he said he still takes pride in his team’s fight against a highly-ranked opponent.
“I’m not looking at it like it’s a total defeat of an evening,” Aird said. “I think we’re a pretty good volleyball team. I don’t think we’re top-25 good, but I think we’re good enough to play with people.”
IU was without its top attacker in junior Kendall Beerman against Illinois, but she was able to come back and play in the team’s win at Ohio State on Wednesday.
Beerman picked up her 700th career kill in the match with Minnesota, but came out just a few points later with a lower body injury — the same injury that kept her out against Illinois.
Without Beerman, the Hoosiers are forced to play without three injured outside hitters, damaging the team’s depth.
“Everyone needs to be ready to play, and I think everyone is,” Malloy said. “It’s important being versatile and being able to play different positions because you never know when we’re going to need you.”
Facing two top-10 opponents in the same week can do some damage to a team’s record, but IU is also learning a lot from its strong opponents.
“We see how fast and how consistent these top-10 teams are, and we want to try and emulate that,” Malloy said. “We’re focusing on ourselves most of the time, but we can also take some key points from other teams noticing that Minnesota is just calm. Even if they’re losing, you can’t tell by their faces and their composure.”
IU will now have nearly a week off before traveling to Michigan State on Friday.
It will give IU a chance to settle in and look to improve its 11-4 record on the season.