After posting a record of 16-15 in 2017, the IUPUI volleyball team is off to a 5-17 tally this season after a loss to Northern Kentucky on Saturday.
The Jaguars took a 1-0 lead to start the match against the Norse, but proceeded to drop the next two sets, both by a score of 25-22. The final set was a different story as Northern Kentucky came out firing and never looked back, resulting in a convincing 25-14 victory to claim the match by a score of 3-1.
The 2018 campaign has been a stark contrast to the successful 2017 season. At this point last year, the Jags were sitting at 11-11, compared to 5-17 this year. Coach Steve Payne, who is entering his 22nd season as head coach of the Jaguars, pointed to the loss of some valuable seniors from last season as a contributing factor to the slow start.
“We had a couple seniors last year who were more offensive threats than what we have right now,” said Payne. “We thought some of the other girls coming in were going to take some of those spots and we thought that was going to help us a little bit, but you don’t realize their value until they’re gone.”
Senior middle blocker Abby Boatman, who registered 3 kills in the game against Northern Kentucky, pointed to the new offense as a big difference in 2018.
“We definitely have a more even, spread-out offense, we don’t just have one big person that we go to,” said Boatman. “We have a couple people that are bigger players for us that we like to send the ball to, but in previous years I feel like we only had maybe one person that was a go-to player.”
Boatman also gave credit to the defensive personnel for the Jaguars this season, with particular praise directed at the back row.
“I think our defense and our serve-receive is good this year,” Boatman said. “We have a lot of girls in the back row that are hungry for the ball and want to dig and get the ball up, so that’s also something good that we have this year.”
Despite the loss and the differences from season to season, the Jaguars know what they need to work on going into their next contest against Green Bay, who is currently sitting atop the Horizon League standings with a 7-1 conference record and is on a seven game win streak.
“We’ve been kind of struggling and making a lot of errors and I think our offense was working better in our first couple sets,” said Payne. “We just need to focus on the good things we did in those first couple sets and get rid of the bad things we did towards the end of each set.”
Maggie Gibson, the Jaguars’ senior defensive specialist who transferred from the University of Indianapolis last season, posted a team-high 13 kills in the loss. However, Gibson was optimistic about the team’s chances going into the Green Bay game.
“I think we did a good job of showing our capabilities,” Gibson said. “Northern Kentucky is definitely a really good team in our conference and in the top three at least. To put up the fight that we did in the first three sets is very promising for us, it’s just a matter of closing. We need to play three winning sets instead of just one.”
The Jaguars will look to turn their season around on October 19 against Green Bay.