IU volleyball takes on Michigan this weekend after coming off a split weekend against Maryland, making them 3-11 on the season. Michigan, due to COVID-19-related postponements, is 2-3. The Wolverines have not played a match since Feb. 20.
“I don’t know what system they’ll be in, I don’t know where they’ll start. We don’t know any of those things,” head coach Steve Aird said. “But we know they’ve got good players.”
The Hoosiers are coming off a loss against Maryland where they faced inconsistencies in setting and attacking as well as struggling against blocking.
Two leaders on the team, junior outside hitter Breana Edwards and senior setter Brooke Westbeld, weren’t the leaders the team needed on Saturday, Aird said in the post-game press conference.
But Aird said rather than moping, the team is taking the loss in stride and continuing to move forward. He said he thinks the team has a good opportunity to be successful against Michigan this weekend.
“I don’t mind losing, I mind not playing well and not competing,”Aird said. “But you keep moving on, you can’t think too much about the losses or what happened. I thought practice the last three days was really good and spirited.”
In the practices leading up to the Michigan matches, Aird said the team has been focusing on overall and individual improvement — something senior setter Brooke Westbeld alluded to after the Maryland matches, saying she needed to work on her own setting to help her teammates.
“As a team we’ve really been focusing a lot on the defensive aspect,” freshman outside hitter Morgan Geddes said. “It’s been getting a lot better. Everybody’s been working so so hard this week.”
Playing good defense will be important against the Wolverines, who are currently ranked third in the conference for kills, averaging 14 per set. They are also ranked seventh in hitting percentage with .205. The Hoosiers are last with .135.
Michigan junior Paige Jones and freshman Jess Mruzik, both outside hitters, are ranked fifth and eighth in the conference in kills per set, respectively. Junior middle blocker Kayla Blair and sophomore middle blocker Jess Robinson are also in the top 10 for conference hitting percentage.
“They’ve been good for a really long time and they have excellent players, and it’ll be a challenge,” Aird said. “On the road is always a challenge in this conference.”
Because Michigan has a well-rounded team, Aird said he knows no matter what they’re going to be good. He said he doesn’t have a lot of film from the season to use to prepare, so Michigan could have a wide variety of lineups that haven’t been seen before.
“Because of where we are as a program, it’s 70% us and 30% the opponent”, Aird said. “If we do things really well we’ll be in matches and if we don’t play very well it won’t matter who we play. The bottom line is whoever they put out there is going to be really good.”
Something Aird has referenced throughout the season is the idea of “competing like crazy” no matter what the statistics or record reflects.
“It’s will over skill,” Aird said. “If you do all the right things and prepare the right way and then play like your hair’s on fire, you have a chance to beat anyone.”