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Indiana volleyball weekend recap: New arrivals meshing with familiar faces

Kendall Beerman looked to provide a spark for the Hoosiers after a tough first set loss Friday.

Oklahoma had just captured the first point of the second set after downing Indiana in the first, 25-23. Indiana’s 6-foot-2 outside hitter hadn’t seen any action yet this weekend, but it became apparent to head coach Steve Aird that if the Hoosiers wanted any chance of making it out of Wilkinson Hall with a win Friday night, it would have to involve Beerman.

Indiana took its first game Friday against Oregon State easily in three straight sets. Even without Beerman on the floor, Aird’s squad looked strong against the Beavers.

The nightcap proved to be more a significant challenge.

Even with Beerman on the floor, Indiana wasn’t able to overcome Oklahoma’s dominant size, losing in five sets.

This weekend’s three games from the Hoosier Invite offered four significant storylines to watch for moving forward:

Indiana’s gap without Beerman

After stepping on the floor for the first time on Friday in the second set, Beerman didn’t play the third set. Then with the game on the line, played in the fourth and fifth sets, but it was obvious she was somewhat limited, as she wore a large knee brace.

Beerman’s limited availability might not have been the ultimate downfall for Indiana in its five-set loss to Oklahoma, but it certainly didn’t help.

The dominant senior’s collegiate career has been a story of a plague of injuries. Last season she was sidelined for a large portion of conference play with an ACL injury.

“We tried to get Kendall to come a little bit, but it’s hard, she’s coming back from her injury,” said Aird.

Last weekend, Aird sat Beerman during the morning matches, and allowed her to roam free in the nightcaps. She jumped right back into her first chance at action and led the team with 17 kills last Saturday against Marshall.

The star outside hitter didn’t see any action Sunday against Yale, and the extent to which Aird has been able to play her has been limited early in the season.

Production from unfamiliar faces

So far early in the season, the majority of Indiana’s production has come from the trio of Deyshia Lofton, Breanna Edwards and Beerman. Indiana’s returning stars led the team in the first weekend of play. But, with as many new faces (nine), as returning (nine), it was only a matter of time before new names popped up.

Transfers Megan Sloan and Jacqui Armer stepped up this weekend for the Hoosiers.

Against Oregon State, Sloan and Armer led Indiana in blocks, with six and four blocks respectively. Sloan also had the second most kills in the morning set with 12.

“They had exceptional mornings,” Aird said of Sloan and Armer, “I thought part of it was we got them the ball a lot and they were doing some really good things.”

Sloan, a senior from Zionsville, Indiana, transferred to IU after spending her first three years at Louisville. Her name may sound familiar to Hoosier fans, as her father, Brian Sloan, was a member of the 1987 national championship basketball team.

Similarly, Jacqui Armer transferred to IU this season after spending her first three at LSU. The senior has made an immediate impact in the middle, adding two blocks and six block assists against Oklahoma.

Sloan added nine kills and five blocks and Armer contributed nine kills and three blocks in the winning effort against Yale on Sunday.

Indiana’s season will be defined by what kind of production Aird will be able to get out of the team aside from his trio of returning stars.

Welcome to the party, Kamryn Malloy

Malloy dove to the floor and made a crucial dig on set point of the third set to keep Indiana in the play against the Sooners. Oklahoma was beginning to mount a rally, scoring four points in a row to bring the score to 24-22, and had Malloy not made the play to keep Indiana alive, Oklahoma had a good chance of bringing the set even.

In the first weekend of the season, Malloy put in valuable minutes for Indiana. This weekend, she shined. Against Oklahoma, Malloy led the team in both kills and digs.

“We’re going to need offense from everyone,” Aird said Friday night, “especially when we play really good teams.”

Malloy continued to contribute Sunday against Yale, offering four kills and nine digs for the Hoosiers.

Malloy made important contributions last year, but with so many new faces this season, it is still unclear what Aird’s go-to squad will look like come time for Big Ten play. With her performance this weekend, Malloy made it clear that she is an integral part of the team.

Armstrong injured

Freshman Haley Armstrong was unable to finish the game Friday night and did not play Sunday because of what Aird described as an “upper body injury.”

Up until her injury Friday night, Armstrong had started every game so far this season for the Hoosiers. The freshman from Milton, Ontario was one of Aird’s highest priority recruits. She is a libero defensive specialist who has seen time on the Canadian Junior National Team and has already proved herself to be a formidable player for Indiana. Entering this weekend, she had led the team in digs with 65.

After handling Yale easily on Sunday, winning in four sets, Indiana’s 2-1 finish on the weekend boosts its overall record to 5-2. After opening the season with two home invitationals, the Hoosiers will face road challenges for the rest of September. This coming weekend, IU will participate in the Bluegrass Battle in Lexington, Kentucky.

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