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Volleyball heading into Cardinal Classic

Illinois%27+Katie+Roustio+gets+ready+to+spike+the+ball+during+the+match+against+Wisconsin+at+Huff+Hall+on+Wednesday%2C+Nov.+18%2C+2015.+Illinois+lost+3-2.
Illinois' Katie Roustio gets ready to spike the ball during the match against Wisconsin at Huff Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015. Illinois lost 3-2.

Illinois' Katie Roustio gets ready to spike the ball during the match against Wisconsin at Huff Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015. Illinois lost 3-2.

Austin Yattoni

Austin Yattoni

Illinois' Katie Roustio gets ready to spike the ball during the match against Wisconsin at Huff Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015. Illinois lost 3-2.

Christian Evans, Staff writer

After starting the season with a sweep of the Montana State Bobcat Classic, the Illinois women’s volleyball team (3-0) looks to continue its strong start this weekend in the Cardinal Classic.

Head coach Chris Tamas was impressed with the team’s effort, but knows there is always room for progress.

“We are trying to maximize our potential and keep improving on what we did last week,” Tamas said. “I thought we served and passed extremely well but it is still early on. We still have another three weekends before Big Ten play and I think every moment is a chance to put them in a pressure situation.”

Junior setter Jordyn Poulter led the team in passing throughout the Bobcat Classic, with 107 assists over the three matches.

Poulter said for that to continue in the Cardinal Classic, the team has to set the tone with its offense.

“Making sure that we are able to run our middles and open up the offense has been a big focus this year,” Poulter said. “With our passing being how good it was last weekend, we were able to do that easily so that is something that I hope continues.”

The first opponent that the Illini will look to continue their success on offense against Kent State.

Kent State (1-2) beat Nebraska-Omaha in its last match in three sets, in a match where senior Kelsey Bittinger had 36 kills, 14 digs and a .392 hitting percentage.

Bittinger and her teammate Challen Geraghty were also both named to the preseason All-MAC team.

Tamas said that the defense will have to pick up on Bittinger and Geraghty’s strengths to counter their abilities.

“We will have to look at their tendencies to see where they are likely to go with the ball, and stack our defense towards those players,” Tamas said. “Volleyball is a game where anyone can have a hot hand on any given night, so we will look to contain first and then make adjustments from there.”

After Kent State, the team will then face No. 24 Western Kentucky (4-0).

Western Kentucky’s Alyssa Cavanaugh set a school record in their last match against Tennessee State with a .818 hitting percentage, however the team as a whole has started off well by finishing above a .400 hitting percentage in two out of their four matches thus far.

Illini senior Jacqueline Quade, who was named to the All-Tournament team last weekend, said they will have to force Western Kentucky out of its routine.

“We have to focus on serving because that will get them out of their system, making it harder for them to score,” Quade said. “They run a really fast offense, which is hard to do if you are not getting good passes.”

Illinois will end the Cardinal Classic in a match against Louisville (0-2), a team Tamas is somewhat familiar with.

Tamas was an assistant at Nebraska last year with Dani Busboom-Kelly, who is now the head coach of Louisville. Even with that history, he said he can’t predict what Louisville will do Saturday.

“I have a good idea of what they will do but until you actually play, you never really know,” Tamas said.

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