Time and time again, IU volleyball Coach Steve Aird has said the focus of this season is not wins and losses.
On Monday during practice, it was clear the team has bought into the message. Despite dropping two matches last weekend against Michigan State and then-No. 16 Michigan, the vibe and intensity at practice was no different than it has been all season.
Even though both games went into a fifth set, including two blown match points against Michigan, the team has quickly shifted its attention to Wednesday’s matchup with reigning national champion, No. 5 Nebsraska.
“We have to prepare the right way,” Aird said. “We’re doing a lot of really good things, which is putting us in a good position, despite a lot of injuries and despite being young -- to get opportunities to win.”
Junior Kendall Beerman has not played due to a lower body injury since Sept. 29. Aird did not give specifics on the injury, but he did say she will probably miss the remainder of the season.
IU is missing much more than an attacker in Beerman. Even with the games she has missed this season, the outside hitter ranks second on the team in kills and digs.
With her versatile skillset, IU has had several players try to fill the void. This past weekend, junior defensive specialist Meaghan Koors saw an increase in playing time and recorded 18 digs and two aces in the two games.
“Coming into the year, I told them they’re going to play a lot,” Aird said. “They’ve been ready to play which is good news. They’re competing.”
In the match against Michigan, IU saw impressive numbers from freshman outside hitter Breana Edwards and sophomore libero Bayli Lebo.
Lebo set a new career high with 26 digs while Edwards had 22 kills – just one from her career high.
“They’re listening and trying to apply the stuff we’re teaching them,” Aird said. “They’ve got to carry a really big load. They’ve got to do a lot of stuff young in their career, but they’re excited about it.”
With Saturday’s match against Michigan and its match with then-No. 8 Illinois on Sept. 23, IU has shown its ability to battle with some of the nation’s best teams.
IU is 2-4 in the Big Ten and 1-2 on the road in the Big Ten Conference. The team’s nonconference schedule included 11 games on the road, and Aird said that has helped his team build confidence in tough environments.
“The preseason was really hard in terms of the volume of travel, but you grow up quick,” Aird said. “Nebraska’s an exceptional opponent and one of the best places to play in the country. What we’re going to do is compete. We don’t mind getting into a fight.”
After Wednesday’s match in Nebraska, IU will return for homecoming weekend to take on Rutgers at University Gym on Saturday.
The Hoosiers finished 13th in the Big Ten last season with a 1-19 record, but the Scarlet Knights were the only team below them with a 0-20 conference record.
This sets up for one of the rare cases this year where IU will be expected to win, but Aird said his team’s mentality will stay the same in preparation.
“Their staff works hard, and they’ll come into the building with the expectation to win,” Aird said. “It’s a big mistake at this level to think that anyone’s going to roll over or not compete."
First serve against Nebsraska will be at 8 p.m. Wednesday and at 7:30 p.m. Saturday against Rutgers.