After losing a pair of home matches over the weekend, the IU volleyball team is back in action Wednesday, against No. 16 Purdue. The two in-state rivals met earlier this season in Bloomington, with Purdue coming out on top by the slimmest of margins in five sets.
This time, the two foes square off in West Lafayette in a match that will be aired on Big Ten Network. Ahead of the 6 p.m. start, here are three things to know:
Two teams headed in opposite directions
Wednesday’s matchup between IU and Purdue will feature two teams headed down different paths as they start the second half of the Big Ten schedule.
Purdue sits at 6-4 in conference and has won three straight matches, including a five-set home win over then-No. 5 Nebraska, who had beaten IU the night prior. Overall, the Boilermakers seem to have found their groove and will look to keep the momentum going Wednesday night.
On the other hand, IU is still looking to kickstart its conference season after a 1-9 start to league play. The Hoosiers enter on a six-game losing streak and haven’t won in more than three weeks.
On the bright side for IU, blowout losses have not been the story of the tough stretch it is currently going through. Three of the past six matches have gone to five sets, and the Hoosiers did steal a set off No. 5 Nebraska last weekend. As senior middle blocker Jacqui Armer put it last weekend, the team now needs to learn how to win down the stretch.
Despite the lopsided record, this rivalry has been competitive as of late
For much of this century and specifically this decade, Purdue has dominated IU in volleyball. In fact, the Boilermakers have won the last 14 matches played against the Hoosiers, the second longest streak by either team in this rivalry.
However, since IU head coach Steve Aird took over last season, all three IU-Purdue matches have come down to the wire in five sets. Across those three matches, Purdue has only scored five more points than IU.
Aird has voiced his desire to turn this rivalry into a more competitive one, and so far he’s done all but beat the Boilermakers in his short time at IU.
If recent trends continue, all signs point toward another close match Wednesday night between the two rival schools.
IU picking it up offensively
Despite being on a six-game losing streak, the Hoosiers have shown improvement offensively as Big Ten play has progressed.
With redshirt senior outside hitter Kendall Beerman and senior middle blocker Hayden Huybers back in the line-ups after dealing with injury, IU’s offense has gotten a boost as of late.
Its last time out, IU hit its best percentage as a group in Big Ten play so far at .237. Three Hoosiers notched double-digit kills — sophomore outside hitter Breana Edwards, Beerman and Huybers.
Last time out against Purdue, IU was without Beerman but still found some offense and hit .175. If Beerman is a full-go once again, time will tell whether she proves to be the difference in what could be a close match.