Junior setter Victoria Brisack said earlier this season that her team looks to go into each weekend and split the two games it plays.
For the third straight week, IU volleyball was able to reach that goal as it lost to No. 4 Penn State on Friday and beat Rutgers on Saturday.
“On the macro, I’m just hoping we get better every week,” Aird said. “If we can get to the point we’re splitting weekends, and if you can get close to 10 wins in the conference, you’re a tournament team.”
Unlike the Oct. 10 match when IU lost two sets by double-digits to No. 5 Nebsraka, the team was able to compete better against Penn State, but was still swept.
“I thought we grew up a lot,” Aird said. “You hate to lose, but I was proud of the way the kids competed.”
For the second time this month, IU was forced to play on back-to-back nights but this time was able to bounce back with a 3-1 win at Rutgers.
This was IU’s second win against Rutgers this season. The Scarlet Knights have not won a conference match since 2015, but Aird still has high praise for the program.
“It’s a different Rutgers program than the last few years,” Aird said. “They’re knocking at the door. The good news for the conference is that they’re developing.”
In the match with the Scarlet Knights, freshman middle blocker Lexi Johnson had 10 kills — her first time with double-digits kills in her college career.
Johnson has been asked to play more outside hitter with the injury of junior Kendall Beerman, who led the team in kills before a torn ACL ended her season.
Aird has started three freshmen this season — Johnson, setter Abigail Westenhofer and outside hitter Breana Edwards — and has said that to him they are no longer freshmen because of the experience they have quickly gained.
“They’ve got to grow up and grow up quickly,” Aird said “They’ve got to get used to the grind. They’ve got to battle.”
The weekend for IU included two games of 15 digs or more by sophomore libero Bayli Lebo.
She now has 376 digs on the season to keep her atop the team lead and in the top-10 of the Big Ten for digs per game.
“The libero position is so important,” Aird said. “I think she’s got another whole gear in her. We’re going to be awfully tough on her in the next month to try to get as much out of her as I can.”
IU has five conference wins for the first time since the 2016 season when the team went 6-14 in the Big Ten.
“I’m more proud than anything,” Aird said. “We’ve only been here eight months, but I feel really happy about what we’ve been able to accomplish.”
The team will be back in action Oct. 31 when it plays host to Michigan. Following the Michigan game, IU will travel to No. 17 Purdue on Nov. 3.
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