IU volleyball will get its final tune-up this weekend before coming back home Sept. 21 for Big Ten Conference play.
The Hoosiers will not be going far for their final nonconference tournament, as they will travel to Cincinnati, Ohio. But, the team will still be in unfamiliar territory as it faces Xavier for the first time in program history.
Following Xavier, the team will compete against Cincinnati and Eastern Kentucky.
The team has spent the week focusing on its motto of getting one-percent better each day, and the next step is this tournament.
“All three of the teams this weekend pose different problems,” IU Coach Steve Aird said. “It’s a great opportunity for the program. If we can compete like crazy and find a few wins, we could cap off a pretty successful preseason.”
IU has prioritized its motto instead of focusing on wins and losses.
For sophomore Bayli Lebo, the team’s loss to Northern Iowa on Friday was IU’s best performance of the year. Whereas for Aird, the win against Ball State on Saturday was one of the weaker performances this season.
“This weekend could be a big one for us, we’re playing some pretty good teams,” Lebo said. “It’s very important to get wins, but at the same time it’s more about our growth as a team.”
Lebo was able to set a career-high in digs when she recorded 24 against Northern Iowa.
Although she played libero for the Dunes Volleyball Club in high school, she played outside hitter at LaPorte High School in LaPorte, Indiana.
Now she said she continues to get more comfortable at the libero position at the Division I level.
Despite the records, Aird said he feels she still has a long way to go, but she along with the rest of the team has grown with time.
“There’s no question that we’re better than we were when we started camp,” Aird said. “We’ve gotten better every single week,”
Heading into the season Aird said his freshmen would get opportunities to improve, and he proved it by starting all three freshmen frequently.
He gave them some leeway at the start to get used to the speed of the collegiate level of play, but, he said he is done letting the excuse of being a freshman get in the way.
“You give them a little bit of a hall pass early in their careers, but I’m over it already,” Aird said. “Things will get exponentially harder as we get into the meat of the Big Ten and start playing teams that, if you have a weakness, they will exploit it and beat you down.”
As the final tournament before conference play is almost underway, that also means the tailgates and new vibes at University Gym are about a week away.
In episode two of the team’s social media video series, Aird’s personality is displayed as the team was invited to his house for his son Padraic’s third birthday party.
During a segment from the Cream and Crimson Scrimmage on Aug. 18, Aird is seen telling Lebo to stall so his favorite song, “Big Poppa” by The Notorious B.I.G., could play over the audio system at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
Fans can expect a lot more of that when the team comes home, but until then Aird said the team will focus on what is ahead of them.
For IU that means Xavier and Cincinnati on Friday and Eastern Kentucky on Saturday.