There was a time in late September when the IU volleyball team sat at 11-2, coming off seven straight victories. But that was before a Big Ten play. Now, after going through a gauntlet full of ranked opponents, IU is only 12-9 and lost its last six matches, still looking for a second breakthrough conference win.
On Friday night, the Hoosiers will have that chance as No. 5 Nebraska comes to Wilkinson Hall for an 8 p.m. match. The Cornhuskers have won their last four and enter at 15-2 overall and 7-1 in conference.
When the Hoosiers take the court against the Cornhuskers, history will be against them. The Cornhuskers lead the all-time series 16-1 and haven’t lost to IU since 1978, the first meeting between the two schools.
“Underdogs are only underdogs as long as they think they are,” IU head coach Steve Aird said. “I told the kids it’s a sold-out crowd, on Friday night at home, on national television. It’s why you want to come to IU now.”
IU is back at home this weekend after playing three straight road matches, which were losses at Illinois, Maryland and Iowa. Saturday night, the Hoosiers get another crack at the Hawkeyes on their home court less than a week later.
While Aird acknowledged that no one likes losing, he said believes in looking at more than just wins and losses.
“We don’t spend a lot of time talking about results,” Aird said. “What I want to do is play well. I don’t think we played well at Illinois, Maryland or Iowa.”
While IU lost to Maryland and Iowa in its last two times out, it did get off to hot starts, winning the first set in each match and the first two sets in the Maryland match. Now for the Hoosiers, it becomes about finding a way to play consistently from the first to the last whistle.
“What you’re going to notice with some of the high-end teams in the Big Ten, they’re very consistent and always putting pressure on you,” Aird said. “We are that for big stretches, just not all the way through. That’s the next part of it. Part of it’s maturity, part of it’s skill, part of it’s belief.”
While looking for that consistency, IU has seen bounce back performances from its lead attacker Breana Edwards in the last two matches.
The sophomore outside hitter struggled three matches ago at Illinois, when she hit negative and only had one kill. These past two matches, however, Edwards has been back above .100 and has averaged 15 kills, leading her team both times.
“They (my teammates) have helped me out a lot, had my back,” Edwards said. “In practice they’ve helped build me up. Just getting confidence back I think is the biggest thing.”