It was a new weekend but the same story for IU volleyball in Big Ten play. With No. 5 Nebraska and Iowa visiting Bloomington for a pair of matches, the Hoosiers continued their recent trend by suffering two hard-fought losses.
On Friday night versus Nebraska, IU did what is has been doing all season — get off to a hot start. The Hoosiers caught the Cornhuskers by surprise and stole set one, 25-22, marking the first time since 2012 that IU has won a set against Nebraska.
But from that point on, it was all Cornhuskers. Behind the stellar play of middle blocker Lauren Stivrins, Nebraska won the next three sets, each by at least nine points.
“We got their attention in game one,” head coach Steve Aird said following the Nebraska match. “I thought they (Nebraska) were excellent in the last three games and took their game to a different level, which you expect from a team that’s as good as they are.”
The following night, IU went toe-to-toe with a familiar opponent in Iowa, who it played last Sunday in Iowa City.
In a tight back-and-forth match, IU found itself up 14-12 in a decisive fifth set but gave up the next four points and lost to the Hawkeyes.
Struggles dealing with opposing serves plagued IU all night long, as it surrendered 11 aces to Iowa.
“It was a tough night,” Aird said following the loss to Iowa. “It’s on us as a staff to try to get over the hump.”
Offensively, however, the weekend proved to be much more favorable for IU than it has been of late. The team hit .100 against Nebraska and upped the number to .237 versus Iowa, where three players reached double-digit kills.
Sophomore outside hitter Breana Edwards led the Hoosiers in each match with 15 and 19 kills. After going through a bit of a dry spell to open up Big Ten play, Edwards has now had 15 or more kills for three straight matches.
Outside hitter Kendall Beerman also had quality outings on the weekend, totaling 21 kills between both matches. The redshirt senior who has battled back from last year’s torn ACL is starting to see more consistent game action, as she has played in at least three sets in three straight matches.
As Big Ten play continues, close losses have become a regular occurrence for this IU team. Saturday’s loss to Iowa now marks three of the past six IU losses that have been decided by three points or less.
“A team just needs to learn how to win,” senior middle blocker Jacqui Armer said. “We haven’t learned how to win yet. It’s just inexperience. We’ll keep working and we’ll keep getting better every game.”
Now 1-9 in conference, IU will look to erase its current six game losing streak this Wednesday when they face off against in-state rival Purdue in West Lafayette. It will be the second meeting between the two schools this year; the first was won by Purdue by only two points in Bloomington.
“That would be a huge win not only for this team but for this school,” Edwards said. “We have to have the school’s back and go up there and prove we can get the job done, especially against Purdue.”