The storyline for IU volleyball has been consistent most of the season.
After a 1-19 conference season last year, the team brought in a new coaching staff led by Steve Aird and an impressive freshman class.
Aird has consistently said the team’s goals this season have nothing to do with wins and losses, rather he said it is about creating a new culture and care for the program.
But what even Aird himself didn’t expect is the success — or at least relative success — his team has had this season. The program has not reached postseason play since 2010, but with four games remaining this year, IU is on the bubble.
“You get to this point of the season, and you want them to understand pressure is a privilege,” Aird said. “If you’re going to spend this much time doing something, then you’re allowed to win. That should be the goal. That’s why they hired me. They didn’t hire me to do an OK job, they want me to do a great job.”
The final stretch of the regular season includes four matches in eight days, starting this weekend with home battles against Iowa and No. 6 Nebraska.
A large part of Aird’s attempt to change the culture of the program is the student section at games. With most students out of town for break, Aird said the community will need to come out.
“We’ll just have to bring our own energy,” middle blocker Hayden Huybers said. “As a team we’ll need to come together and help each other out.”
Iowa and IU both come into Friday’s match with a 6-10 conference record. Even with a top-10 team on the agenda, IU players know it is important to not turn their attention away from Iowa.
“You can’t look over anyone in the Big Ten because it’s such a competitive league,” defensive specialist Nora Meehan said. “People have good nights and bad nights, and you have to capitalize on those moments. We can never overlook a team.”
IU will play back-to-back nights when it plays host to Nebraska on Saturday.
Earlier this season, the Hoosiers were swept by the Cornhuskers in a match that Aird said his team was not competitive in.
But Aird said he feels his team has improved. Last weekend the team was swept by two top-10 teams in Minnesota and Wisconsin, but Aird felt his team was closer to winning, despite what the scores imply.
“Sometimes you play great and you don’t win,” Aird said. “Down the stretch against everyone here, we’re going to have to play really good volleyball.”
Aird said the team is simply focused on Iowa right now, but his players understand what is needed in the final stretch.
“If we win these two or three matches, then that Sunday when we’re sitting on the coach it’s not a question of if we’re going to make the tournament,” Nora Meehan said. “It’s ‘where are we going,' and that’s huge.”
First serve for both matches this weekend will be at 7 p.m. in University Gym.