BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Indiana finally knows the game this weekend is set.
The last time the Hoosiers competed in a match was Nov. 30, 2019. The 2020 spring matches were canceled due to COVID-19, and the 2020 fall season season was pushed back to the spring of 2021.
After going through the unknown for the last 10 months, Indiana finally knows it will be competing again this weekend when it opens its season at home against No. 5 Nebraska.
"Knowing that we play the number five team in the country in seven days, it's super motivating," freshman outside hitter Tommi Stockham said at media day last Friday. "You can tell everyone is so excited and so ready."
The way the Big Ten volleyball schedule is set up is simple. Each weekend, you play one team twice in the same location.
On Friday and Saturday this weekend at 6 p.m. ET, Indiana will play Nebraska in Wilkinson Hall.
It's a conference-only schedule this season, so the Hoosiers, who are bringing in a lot of youth, will be competing against the top teams in the country each weekend.
"There's nowhere to hide in the Big Ten," head coach Steve Aird said. "It'd be foolish to think we're not going to try and come out and throw some haymakers."
Indiana has eight freshmen on the roster for this season. The recruiting class was ranked No. 15 in the nation, which is the best ranking in program history.
With a gauntlet of a season like this one, Aird expects to play a lot of players, including the freshmen.
"When it's the highest ranked class in program history, they know what they're getting into," Aird said. "We're going to work hard and we're going to have fun but at some point they'll have to take responsibility. We're heading into a Nebraska team that's returning most everyone."
Along with Stockham, middle blockers Leyla Blackwell and Savannah Kjolhede are the other freshmen Aird can envision getting some early playing time.
"It's an honor to be a part of this class," Stockham said. "It's so cool having so many freshmen and basically starting over from scratch. I think we all feel so lucky to be a part of this class and to change the Indiana program."
Aird thinks it's funny how players like Emily Fitzner and Haley Armstrong, who have both played four months of collegiate volleyball, are now some of the more experienced players and leaders on the team.
With a lot of new pieces, the team has spent a lot of time with one another off the court to try to build as much chemistry as possible.
"We're a very young team, and it's been really fun," Fitzner said. "They always want to be in the gym and are super hard-working. We are all listening to the coaches and trying to get one percent better every day."
Nebraska leads the all-time series over Indiana 17-1. The last time the Hoosiers defeated the Cornhuskers was Oct. 14, 1978.
Last season when the two met in Bloomington, Nebraska won 3-1 (25-22, 13-25, 16-25, 14-25). It was the first time since 2012 that the Hoosiers won a set against Nebraska.
As Aird alluded to, Nebraska is returning a lot of its players from last season, including two AVCA All-Americans in middle blocker Lauren Stivrins and outside hitter Lexi Sun.
It's an opportunity for Indiana to continue to build its new culture and try to make a statement in the first match of the season.
"This will definitely be the first mini sampling of my footprint on the program," Aird said. "My goal is to get the young players as much experience as possible and be competitive in matches."