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Loss to Purdue signals that being just ‘OK’ won’t permit Indiana volleyball to last in conference play

They say if one wants to see the sun, they’ll have to weather the storm first. That’s certainly the case for the Hoosiers now, following a win-loss weekend as Indiana opened Big Ten play on Friday.

For the first time since 2018, the women of Indiana volleyball swept the conference opener, winning 3-0 against the Michigan State Spartans on Friday night. Finally being healthy for the first time in three weeks, having outsider hitter Kari Zumach and middle blocker Kaley Rammelsberg back in action really changed the spirit of the team, but that spirit was quickly annihilated Sunday morning, following a tough 3-0 loss to No. 7 Purdue.

“I thought we passed just OK,” head coach Steve Aird said. “I thought the decisions were OK.”

Sure, you can tip your cap to the winning teams, but when will Hoosier Nation be able to tip their cap to their own? The question now: when will Indiana stop being just “OK”? Aird is dealing with the constant ups and downs this season, and said he feels it's upon his shoulders to change this rocky momentum.

“We tried to put a gameplan out on Saturday,” Aird said. “Clearly, I just didn’t have them emotionally ready to go coming off training yesterday, so that’s on me.”

Being that Purdue has built a very well prepared and confident volleyball program for over 40 years, there was no rivalry Sunday between the very young Hoosier team and the experienced Boilermakers. Purdue’s starting setter Hayley Bush is the glue that’s held the Boilermakers together for four years. Comparing that to the other side of the court, freshman setter Camyrn Haworth is just starting to make a name for herself within the Hoosier program.

Aird emphasized that he and his faculty are asking Haworth to be really, really precise, and while she had control in certain moments, there needs to be more fire that fuels hitters and setters to communicate properly during a set, Aird said.

“The hitter’s got to do a better job of helping her out,” Aird said. “But that doesn’t get Cam out of jail.”

Now standing 1-1 in the Big Ten, the Hoosiers have proven they have the potential to play pretty well, but just having potential won’t allow them to survive the rest of the conference.

“The answer isn’t that everyone else is going to be bad or play bad, it’s that we have to get good,” Aird said. “We have pieces to do so, we just weren’t very organized or very competitive today.”

The difficult reality of the conference environment is that competitiveness is crucial. While one match isn’t the end of the world, the Hoosiers will look to learn from this before traveling to Ohio State on Wednesday. Earning respect from fans is another piece missing from the puzzle. Giving Hoosier Nation a reason to come back to Wilkinson Hall and grow with the team is just another one of the many humps they need to get over before they get too deep into Big Ten play.

“When I took the job, what I had in my head was this place would be rockin’ and full,” Aird said. “If we have crowds like that, you want to reward them, and that was the tough part of the day.”

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