Indiana Daily Student

Despite strong effort, IU volleyball fell to Michigan over the weekend

<p>Redshirt freshman outside hitter Ashley Zuluaf spikes the ball Feb. 13 in Wilkinson Hall. IU volleyball lost two road games against Michigan this weekend. </p>

Redshirt freshman outside hitter Ashley Zuluaf spikes the ball Feb. 13 in Wilkinson Hall. IU volleyball lost two road games against Michigan this weekend.

IU volleyball fell to Michigan 2-3 on Friday and 1-3 Saturday, putting the team at 3-13 on the season. Despite the losses, head coach Steve Aird said he is happy with how his team played and is excited for the future.

Friday night saw a slow start for the Hoosiers as they lost the first two sets 25-22, recording only 20 kills compared to Michigan’s 38. However, they were able to gather some energy and win the third and fourth sets 28-26 and 25-21, respectively. They led for much of the fifth set but ended up losing 15-11.

“I thought we showed character coming back in the third and fourth set. We have to find a way to win in the fifth set,” head coach Steve Aird said. “It’s another good lesson for the squad.”

Freshman outside hitter Tommi Stockham led IU with 19 kills, with junior outside hitter Breana Edwards following her with 13. Edwards didn’t start strong, only posting three kills in the first two sets, but she would be a driving force for the Hoosiers the rest of the night.

Edwards and freshman middle blocker Savannah Kjolhede rattled Michigan in the beginning of the third set, recording back-to-back kills and putting IU up 2-0. The team eventually won the set with back-to-back blocks.

The Hoosiers had some solid blocks, recording 14 on the night to the Wolverines’ five. However, Aird said after the game the blocks themselves weren’t great, and they should have been able to block more. The Hoosiers allowed multiple kills by leaving gaps in their blocks, having weak hands or simply by not blocking at all.

The Hoosiers were able to improve their serving from previous weekends, only recording four service errors compared to the Wolverines’ 15. Four Hoosiers had multiple aces, led by sophomore defensive specialist Haley Armstrong with four. 

As the match continued, IU’s defense started to slow down Michigan junior outside hitter Paige Jones, who recorded 35 kills total — a career high. A block against her by freshman outside hitter Morgan Geddes came at the end of the third set, and all three front row players stopped Jones in the beginning of the fourth set. 

By the end of the third set, Jones already had 26 kills. She was successful from both sides of the net as well as the back row, often taking IU’s front row by surprise and posing a threat throughout the match.

“That’s the challenge, and that’s the great thing,” Aird said. “It’s another opportunity to play against a kid who’s a great player. We’ve got to find a way to stop the bleeding against a kid who’s going off like that.”

IU came back from losing 30-28 to win 25-20 in the second set Saturday but lost the next two sets 25-17 and 25-19.

“I thought we played really well,” Aird said. “Michigan was back near full strength, and we battled through the match. We had great offensive balance.”

Jones had much less of an effect on Saturday’s match, only posting four kills out of 29 attempts. However, the Hoosiers still had some difficulty with reception in the form of both serves and kills. They lost steam in the last two sets, giving up 34 out of Michigan’s 62 kills and six out of 12 service aces.

“We put Leyla on [Jones]”, Aird said. “We solved the problem, but they had more problems that presented themselves.”

Aird praised freshman middle blocker Leyla Blackwell after the match for her success on the night. Blackwell hit .562 on the night with 10 kills and recorded two blocks. The Hoosiers and the Wolverines both had four players with double-digit kills, with Blackwell being one of them. Edwards led the Hoosiers with 13.

“There was a lot to like,” Aird said. “We took steps forward tonight.”

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