Indiana Daily Student

Volleyball to get first taste of road conference play

<p>Freshman Breana Edwards squares up for a hit from Illinois on Sept. 23 in University Gym. IU is 11-6 overall this season and 2-4 in Big Ten Conference play.&nbsp;</p>

Freshman Breana Edwards squares up for a hit from Illinois on Sept. 23 in University Gym. IU is 11-6 overall this season and 2-4 in Big Ten Conference play. 

IU volleyball fans quickly learned that Coach Steve Aird is a fan of The Notorious B.I.G.

During IU’s annual Cream and Crimson Scrimmage on Aug. 18 at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, Aird told sophomore libero Bayli Lebo to stall between points so “Big Poppa” could play over the loudspeaker. 

As conference play starts to heat up, the focus for the team is on the notorious Big Ten – at least it’s been notorious for the Hoosiers.  

“It’s the best conference in America,” assistant coach Dan Gwitt said. “We have the best coaches in the world in this conference.”

IU is coming off a season in which the team went 1-19 in conference play. The team matched that number in the win column by defeating Northwestern on Friday for IU's home and conference opener. 

Aird said he thinks the idea of winning two games and being happy is a stupid one.

From a numbers standpoint, it is an upgrade. 

After letting a 2-0 set lead slip away against then-No. 8 Illinois on Sunday, the team’s next chance to win is Wednesday at Ohio State.

The Buckeyes are 10-4 on the season and are coming off an upset win against then-No. 4 Penn State on Sunday.

“There’s no weak team in our conference, everyone’s recruiting the best players nationally,” Gwitt said. “Every match you go into is going to be a battle. It doesn’t shock me Penn State lost at Ohio State, any losses you see this year won’t shock me at all.”

In the most recent AVCA Coaches Poll, five Big Ten teams cracked the top five, while nine teams at least received votes for the top 25.  

Aird said he did not feel Illinois played its best in the first two sets Sunday, but IU is still taking positives from competing with a team that is ranked No. 7 in the most recent rankings.

“We were toe-to-toe with them until game five,” Gwitt said. “There’s never a good loss, because we’re competitive, but sometimes you learn a lot from a loss. It prepares you to win those matches in the future.”

IU was also without its best attacker in junior Kendall Beerman on Sunday due to a lower body injury, and Gwitt said she would be a game-time decision to play against Ohio State.

The Hoosiers have consistently started three freshmen this season, which means those players will be getting their first taste of playing on the road in the Big Ten this season.

“This is all brand new to them,” Gwitt said. “Now that we’re really in the heart of the season and the conference, they’re going to have to learn a lot of lessons.”

Following Wednesday’s match against the Buckeyes, IU will return home to take on No. 6 Minnesota on Saturday. Although Hoosier Hysteria is the same day, the event is scheduled to end at 6 p.m. with the volleyball game slated for 7 p.m. at University Gym. 

Aird is not shying away from trying to make games in Bloomington notorious for other teams.

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