IU volleyball recorded its first win of the season Saturday against Rutgers in New Brunswick, New Jersey, after losing in four sets Friday afternoon. IU improved to 1-3 on the season with Saturday’s win.
The Hoosiers put up a strong effort Friday, winning the first set 25-18 and losing by no more than 8 points in the following three sets with scores of 17-25, 19-25 and 20-25. The Hoosiers kept sets close, but appeared to lose their energy as the sets drew to a close.
“I give Rutgers credit,” head coach Steve Aird said. “When they got some confidence they kind of smelled blood in the water. It’s a good lesson.”
Junior outside hitter Breana Edwards led the team with 20 kills out of a total of 44 for the Hoosiers, marking her seventh career match with at least 20 kills. Sophomore defensive specialist Haley Armstrong also set a season high with 22 digs in four sets.
The Hoosiers also showed the benefits of their focus on defensive training with 10 team blocks and 62 digs. Freshman Layla Blackwell recorded six blocks with one coming at a key point late in the fourth set to put IU within 1 point.
However, the need for improvements in accurately receiving serves was notable as IU put up six service errors and allowed Rutgers to record nine service aces.
“They won the serve and pass game,” Aird said. “They played well and will be confident coming back tomorrow.”
Looking at the results of Saturday’s match, it would appear that IU came back with confidence.
The Hoosiers began the afternoon with the same energy as Friday, winning two sets in a row and coming back to win the fourth and secure their victory.
IU won the first set 25-19, at one point leading by 6 points at 10-4 on a kill by freshman outside hitter Tommi Stockham. After recording her first career double-double on Friday with 11 kills and 11 digs, Stockham continued to bring that energy, leading the team with 16 kills on Saturday.
In the second set, the Hoosiers went on a 4-0 scoring run to lead by six, winning the set 25-15 on an ace by sophomore defensive specialist Sophie Oliphant.
There was a notable decrease in energy on IU’s side of the court going into the third set. In that set alone, Rutgers had a .609 hitting percentage and never trailed, at one point scoring 10 unanswered points and keeping IU in single digits during the 9-25 loss.
The Hoosiers’ lull continued into the fourth set as the Scarlet Knights quickly got ahead 6-1. The Hoosiers got back into a rhythm, going on a 6-0 scoring run to narrow the gap to 15-14.
From there, the score volleyed back and forth to eventually tie at 23-23. A kill from freshman middle blocker Savannah Kjolhede and an ace from Armstrong clinched the set and match victory.
“We showed character and resiliency to come back in the fourth set,” Aird said. “We had young people make big plays when we needed them. We have to find a way to keep battling and that is a skill.”
With a significant increase in offensive and defensive showing, the Hoosiers now have a total of 155 kills and 174 digs.
They have a .139 attack percentage on the season. The team with the best attack percentage in the conference, Wisconsin, has a percentage of .367.
“It’s hard to win in this conference and we are fortunate to leave Rutgers with a split,” Aird said. “I was proud of our effort today.”
IU continues their two-week stretch of away games next weekend at Iowa, who has yet to win a match this season.