Dec. 4, 2010

Courtesy of Indiana Athletics

For the first time in program history, the Indiana University volleyball team has advanced to the sweet 16 of the NCAA Championship. The Hoosiers (23-11) survived their second five-set match of the weekend on Saturday, this time topping 11th-seeded and 19th-ranked Tennessee (25-7) to move on to the Regional Semifinals in Dayton, Ohio next weekend.

"I love this team, how they just refuse to quit," said Head Coach Sherry Dunbar. "We played a great Tennessee team today and I thought we really persevered as we were the aggressor in the end. We found a way to make plays when we needed them the most."

Indiana Post-Match Press Conference Podcast (Coach Dunbar, Caitlin Cox, Jordan Haverly and Taylor Wittmer)

Two nights. Ten sets. Sixteen teams remaining. Lots of smiling Hoosiers.

The weather outside was frightful, but the action inside University Gym was so delightful. Indiana won by set tallies of 18-25, 25-21, 20-25, 27-25 and 15-13.

Sophomore outside hitter Jordan Haverly put the Hoosiers on her back throughout the winning effort, racking up 30 kills, 14 digs, five blocks and a .333 hitting efficiency. Seniors Ashley Benson and Taylor Wittmer helped erect a defensive wall, combining for 11 block assists between the two.

Mary Chaudoin handled the majority of the setting duties, dishing out 41 assists on the night. One of Indiana's few statistical advantages came from the service line where the Hoosiers fired five aces while committing zero reception errors when Tennessee took to the baseline. Junior captain Caitlin Cox belted a pair of aces; Haverly, Benson and Melanie Hicks each recorded one.

The two squads exchanged sets of beating up on each other as Tennessee led the entire way in set number one and the Hoosiers responded by owning an edge for nearly the entire second stanza.

Sets three and four were much tighter than the first two, but the result was much the same. Tennessee took a one-set advantage before IU bounced back to even it up at two sets apiece.

Haverly went bonkers in the fourth frame, blistering nine kills in that set alone. Cox was also very impressive, digging up a set-high six balls as the Hoosiers forced a fifth set.

Indiana's momentum quickly evaporated, however, as the Lady Vols bolted out to a 6-3 lead to start the decisive fifth set. Haverly and company would not let their season end though, scrapping and clawing their way back to even the score at 8-8. Despite Tennessee then seizing the next two points to go ahead 10-8, the Hoosier comeback simply kept coming. Indiana ripped off three straight to force UT Head Coach Rob Patrick to burn a timeout with his Lady Vols trailing 11-10.

Sherry Dunbar, an assistant coach under Coach Patrick at UT for six seasons, dialed up the right play as Indiana earned the first point following the break in action, forcing Coach Patrick to spend his second timeout immediately.

Moments later, Haverly's 30th termination of the evening handed IU a set point at 14-12. Tennessee's Nikki Fowler countered and extended the match with a kill of her own to create a 14-13 score. The Lady Vols' subsequent serve sailed long and out of bounds as the Hoosier faithful in attendance fell into a state of sheer jubilation.

The Cream and Crimson are now headed to Dayton for the Regional Semifinals, taking on either Southern California or San Diego in the Sweet 16 match-up. The Hoosiers will see a familiar foe as fellow Big Ten institution Ohio State lies on the top half of the Dayton Regional bracket.