Indiana Daily Student

IU volleyball to face undefeated No. 1 Wisconsin at home this weekend

<p>Sophomore defensive specialist Sophie Oliphant prepares to serve Jan. 22 at Wilkinson Hall. IU will play No. 1 Wisconsin in a double header Friday and Saturday at Wilkinson Hall. </p>

Sophomore defensive specialist Sophie Oliphant prepares to serve Jan. 22 at Wilkinson Hall. IU will play No. 1 Wisconsin in a double header Friday and Saturday at Wilkinson Hall.

IU volleyball is slated to face No. 1 Wisconsin on Friday and Saturday at Wilkinson Hall after two consecutive weekends on the road.

The Hoosiers are coming off of a strong five-set win on Saturday and are 2-4 for the season. The Badgers are 6-0 after sweeping Rutgers last weekend and were No.1 in the first regular-season Power 10 ranking this week after also being No. 1 in preseason Power 10 rankings.

“I think the squad is really excited about the opportunity,” IU head coach Steve Aird said at a press conference Wednesday. “Clearly a veteran team, a lot of upperclassmen, a ton of experience and a lot of skill.”

The Badgers are full of experience, having made it to the 2019 NCAA championship game. They have eight seniors on their roster, including middle blocker and 2019-20 Big Ten Female Athlete of the Year Dana Rettke. 

Rettke is among five Wisconsin players ranked in the Big Ten’s top ten for a multitude of skills, including hitting percentage, kills and blocks.

“They’re ahead of us in every position in terms of talent and experience, and that’s okay,” Aird said. 

Two IU freshmen also earned Big Ten accolades this past week, showing the skill and potential of the team. Outside hitter Tommi Stockham was named Freshman Player of the Week and middle blocker Leyla Blackwell was named Defensive Player of the Week. Both have been dominant forces every weekend for the Hoosiers.

Stockham is currently sixth in the conference at 3.61 kills per set and recorded 26 in five sets in Saturday’s match against Iowa. Blackwell tied the second most blocks in program history in a five-set match with 22 and is ranked sixth in the conference with 1.39 blocks per set.

“Any awards, especially individual awards in our sport, are team awards,” Aird said. “They feel good about it and I think people are happy for them, but it’s not something we spend a lot of time thinking about.”

After splitting matches the past two weekends, the Hoosiers have had a taste of victory and learned from it, Aird said. He said his players know they have to be more consistent, especially in serving and passing.

“They’ve both been huge learning experiences,” sophomore setter Emily Fitzner said at the press conference. “Going into this weekend we have to keep playing free and focus on our side of the net and compete as a whole unit.”

Aird reiterated that the focus of this season is to develop his young team both as individuals and as a unit.

“We’ve got to play these matches, we’ve got to play the best in the country,” Aird said. “It’s the only way we’re going to get to where we need to be.”

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