IU volleyball head coach Steve Aird has had a goal for his team when it comes to how many non-conference wins he wants to tally before entering the Big Ten gauntlet, he said.
That number is between eight and 10 wins, and with seven nonconference games down and six to go, IU seems to be right on pace with a 5-2 record. However, the rest of its non-conference matches will be played away from Wilkinson Hall.
IU will head to Lexington, Kentucky, this weekend to play three road matches for the first time this season. It will be the first of eight straight matches away from Bloomington for the Hoosiers.
On Friday, IU will square off against Florida Gulf Coast University at 10 a.m. and Cleveland State University at 6 p.m. Saturday afternoon.The 15th ranked University of Kentucky will host the Hoosiers at 4 p.m. to round out a weekend that should say a lot about where the team is at heading into Big Ten play.
“If we play well, we’re in them,” Aird said. “If we don’t play well, all three teams will beat us. They’re well coached and they’re good.”
Kentucky comes in this week as the second highest ranked South Eastern Conference school and will undoubtedly be IU’s toughest test yet. The Wildcats are 4-2 on the season and have yet to play a home match.
The Eagles of Florida Gulf Coast have started the season 6-0, a record that includes wins against Auburn University and San Diego State University. Cleveland State heads to Lexington at 2-4 on the season.
“We’re focusing on us,” senior middle blocker Jacqui Armer said. “We’re focusing on getting a little bit better every single day.”
Armer, a Louisiana State University transfer, is no stranger to playing SEC opponents. In her three years at LSU, Armer made numerous visits to Lexington to take on conference opponent Kentucky.
The status of freshman libero Haley Armstrong remains up in the air heading into this weekend’s matches. Armstrong was taken out of last Friday’s match against Oklahoma University with what Aird called an upper-body injury.
As for Kendall Beerman, the redshirt senior is continuing to add reps and work her way back into action as she recovers from the torn ACL she suffered last season. Beerman has played limited minutes in three matches.
“The volume during the week has gotten more and more,” Aird said. “It’s going to get easier when we play a match and we have a few days off. I’m still trying to pick and choose when it’s going to make sense to play her. But, our best version of us is going to be with her in the lineup. She’s got too much arm talent and she’s a really good volleyball player.”
With no home matches again until Oct. 4, IU will travel to Lexington this weekend and Tampa Bay, Florida,next weekend to wrap up the nonconference schedule.
“This year, being at home through the first couple weeks, it was an advantage for sure,” Aird said. “I think they are excited to get on the road. No matter what the sport is, I think coaches will tell you it’s kind of fun to get the team on the road where the distractions are gone.”