Then-junior middle blocker Deyshia Lofton spikes the ball for a kill against two University of Nebraska — Lincoln defenders on Nov. 17 in University Gym. IU’s nonconference schedule will begin this weekend at the Indiana Invitational, with four matches being played between Friday and Saturday at Wilkinson Hall. 

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When head coach Steve Aird started his second year at IU, he made his intention of playing stronger non-conference competition known right from the start.

“I just think it’s important that we start playing really good programs,” Aird said in a press conference before the season. “If you’re going to play in the nation’s best conference, you don’t want to duck people.”

Aird kept his promise this weekend. The Hoosiers traveled to Lexington, Kentucky, to compete in the Bluegrass Battle, a three-match tournament that concluded with a clash against No. 15 University of Kentucky.

In a five set battle, IU came back from losing two sets to one and knocked off the Wildcats in their own gym. The upset came after two wins Friday over Florida Gulf Coast University and Cleveland State University.

IU’s win over Kentucky is its second win over a ranked opponent under Aird, the first came last season against a then 14th-ranked University of Michigan in Bloomington.

“I feel fortunate to win a big match,” Aird said. “I have tremendous respect for Coach Skinner and his program. They are fantastic and will have a great season.”

Senior middle blocker Deyshia Lofton’s performance over the weekend won her the MVP of the Bluegrass Battle. Lofton totaled 34 kills and 13 blocks on the weekend, including a 19-kill and 6-block performance against Cleveland State.

Sophomore outside hitter Breana Edwards continued her dominant start to the season by tallying 20 kills and eight blocks against Kentucky. Kamryn Malloy also shined against the Wildcats with three aces, two of which came in a must-win fourth set for the Hoosiers. 

Although limited, redshirt senior Kendall Beerman appeared in all three matches this weekend. Her best outing came against FGCU Friday morning, where she delivered 14 kills and hit .357. It is the first time since her knee injury that Beerman played in three straight matches.

Freshman libero Haley Armstrong continued to be sidelined from the upper-body injury she sustained against Oklahoma last week. Once again, junior Bayli Lebo filled in, tallying 39 digs on the weekend.

IU’s three victories move it to 8-2 on the season. Next weekend, the Hoosiers will head to Tampa Bay, Florida, to play Stetson University and the University of South Florida at the USF Invitational.

“I’m proud of our group, but no crazy celebration, let’s put our head down and work,” Aird said. “The season is young.”

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