The Iowa volleyball team will travel to Indiana for a midweek match at 6 p.m. today against its first unranked opponent since the beginning of Big Ten play.
Indiana started off the season strong with an 11-1 record before going 0-6 in Big Ten action, most recently falling to Northwestern in five sets and Illinois in four.
The Hoosiers are ranked No. 27 in the nation, ninth in the conference with a .257 attack percentage.
“Indiana has really talented middles and a really strong right-side presence,” Iowa head coach Bond Shymansky said. “Their setter can dish pretty well and is fairly offensive, and they’re a good serving team, so the combination of all those things — one of their best outside hitters has been in and out a little bit with some injury issues, but if she’s healthy and in there, they just have a lot going as a team.”
Despite Indiana’s slow conference start, Shymansky said the Hoosiers are a competitive team that has fought everyone they’ve played hard so far.
“They’ve been super competitive in league play; it’s not like they’re getting blown out, they just haven’t quite scratched the W yet,” he said. “We’re expecting them to really bring everything they’ve got.”
Coming off of its last match against Nebraska, Iowa has taken away some key features of its game that it can work on.
The passing game has struggled a little in recent matches, something that will be key for the upcoming match.
“So, I think with Nebraska, we kind of really struggled [with passing] a lot, so I think that’s something we’ve focused on a lot this week during practice,” senior libero Annika Olsen said. “Indiana, they are one of the best serving teams in the Big Ten, so we know that we’re going to have to pass well to beat them.”
Even though Iowa was swept by Nebraska, playing a tight match with one of the top teams in the nation helps show that the Hawkeyes are good enough to play at that level.
“I mean, even though we didn’t win, we did hang with them,” Olsen said. “We could get really good points and win those long rallies, so I think it did still build our confidence knowing that we could compete with the best of the best.”
Iowa swept its last unranked opponent (Rutgers) on Sept. 22.
Playing with top-25 teams is challenging, but ranked or unranked, the Hawkeyes still have to prove themselves.
“I think obviously playing those top-25 teams, they’re great and stuff, [but] it’ll just be a nice breather to play somebody outside the top 25,” Olsen said. “Obviously, we’ve still got to take them seriously and prove ourselves, but it’ll be nice.”
Tonight’s match is big for Iowa, not just because it’s a Big Ten opponent. Each night they compete is one step closer to a potential NCAA Tournament bid.
“There’s nothing but good things ahead for our team, that’s for sure,” Shymansky said. “Every match seems large. We keep climbing the RPI ranks, we keep climbing in position in conference, so [tonight’s] match is just ginormous for us.”