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Volleyball begins second half of conference play



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Freshman middle blocker Lexi Johnson and junior blocker Deyshia Lofton jump up to block the ball against an Ohio State attacker Oct. 19 in University Gym. IU will face Penn State and Rutgers this weekend. Steven Lin Buy Photos

This weekend will be another step into the past for IU volleyball Coach Steve Aird.

After losing to Maryland on Sunday — a team he coached from 2014-2017 — Aird and his team will travel to No. 4 Penn State for a Friday night match.

Penn State is where Aird spent his college playing days, as well as several years as an assistant coach and director of operations.

However, Aird faced Penn State while coaching at Maryland.

“Going back is, to me, now is more enjoyable,” Aird said. “The best way to respect the people that you care about is to compete.”

It was be another opportunity for Aird to face off against his former coach and long time mentor, Penn State Coach Russ Rose. 

“Outside of my dad, he’s my go-to in terms of most everything and has been since 1997,” Aird said. “He’s been there for a lot of important things in my life.”

While coaching at Maryland, Aird went 0-7 against Rose.

Earlier this season IU participated in the Penn State Invitational where Rose was honored for his 40 years at the helm of his team. The Hoosiers and the Nittany Lions did not face off in that tournament.

Penn State is frequently one of the nation’s top teams in terms of attendance and will provide a tough road environment for IU. However, with 15 of its games being playing on the road or on neutral court, Aird said he feels IU is comfortable in these situations.

“Playing in the Big Ten is such a privilege,” Aird said. “It’s a great fanbase. They’ll cheer hard for teams that play hard. Obviously, they care a great deal about their squad.”

Following Friday's match, IU will need a quick turnaround to prepare itself for Saturday’s match at Rutgers.

The Hoosiers defeated the Scarlet Knights in straight sets Oct. 13, but Aird said his team cannot expect to rollover them. 

“They have good players that have good skills,” Aird said. “They just play in a really tough conference.” 

The weekend will begin the second half of Big Ten play for IU, who is 4-6 in conference play and 13-8 overall.

Big wins down the stretch can put IU in postseason contention — something the team has not seen in a while. 

“We’ve got 10 more opportunities to make the year special,” Aird said.

First serve for the Penn State game will be at 7:30 p.m., and the game will be Pink Night to honor breast cancer awareness. The Rutgers match will start at 7 p.m.

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