IU volleyball rarely comes into a match as the favorite to win, but Saturday against Rutgers was an exception.
The Hoosiers did not let up against the Scarlet Knights and got their first Big Ten straight set win of the season.
“It’s important to give people some stuff to be fired up about,” IU Coach Steve Aird said. “I know we’re not the show yet. I know there’s hoops and football and a whole bunch of sports that matter maybe more than we do, but I like the fact that we made people happy here tonight on campus.”
IU, now 12-7 overall and 3-5 in the Big Ten, was coming off a 3-0 loss at No. 5 Nebraska on Wednesday. The poor showing in the match was something that Aird was focused on rebounding from.
“It was really hard for me,” Aird said. “I didn’t sleep much. I was nauseous. I’m as competitive as it gets, and it’s my team.”
Aird said he normally likes to keep a calm demeanor on the sidelines because he has been in many important matches during his career and understands the importance of not focusing too much on highs and lows.
However, on numerous occasions – especially during the second set – Aird was clearly getting hyped about the team’s play against Rutgers by standing up and fist-pumping after certain points.
“I don’t like going player mode where I feel like I’ve got to be team captain,” Aird said. “I train hard and I’m intense when I’m in the gym, but in matches I want to be more steady than that. There were times tonight where I felt like we needed it, and we needed some more emotion.”
Training has been different for the team recently as it has adjusted to injuries.
Sophomore outside hitter Kamryn Malloy has seen an increase in playing time due to a season-ending torn ACL to junior outside hitter Kendall Beerman.
Against Rutgers, Malloy picked up 10 kills and eight digs.
“Kendall was obviously a huge loss for us, and we all love her,” junior setter Victoria Brisack said. “Kam is a great volleyball player, and we all knew without a doubt that she was going to be able to come in and fill those shoes amazingly.”
Another result of the injury has been IU searching for more depth at outside hitter. Freshman middle blocker Lexi Johnson has seen more playing time at outside hitter and picked up six kills against the Scarlet Knights.
“She’s got a long way to go, but I think she’s got a high ceiling,” Aird said. “There’s a few kids in the program that if they get real serious about this – if this becomes a priority in their life – they’re going to be awfully good.”
From a record standpoint, IU has clearly improved from the one conference win it had last season.
However, Aird has continuously said this season that the focus is not on wins and losses.
Instead, it’s about the progress the program makes – something Aird said can mostly be judged by others that have been around the program longer than him.
“Us working on getting 1 percent better each day has helped us tremendously,” junior middle blocker Deyshia Lofton said. “Everyone has been doing their job to the best of their ability, and I think that’s helped the team so much this season.”
IU will be back in action at 7 p.m. Friday at University Gym against Ohio State.
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