The Daily Illini

Prince brings impact on and off court

By Brian Binz, Staff Writer

Illinois volleyball’s Beth Prince has always been a Big Ten-level talent; however, her health aspect hasn’t always matched her top-recruit pedigree.

The redshirt junior has capitalized on regaining good health and turned it into her most productive period of the year yet for the Illini.

However, early in her career, Prince learned that even off the court, she can have an impact on the team.

Prince arrived on campus with players like All-Big Ten setter Jordyn Poulter and All-Big Ten middle blocker Alli Bastianelli. Prince had to redshirt her freshman year in 2015 after an ankle injury shut her down for the season.

What could have been a derailing moment for some was a moment of truth for Prince.

“It was definitely different, but it was one of the greatest things that could happen to me,” Prince said. “It gave me a big opportunity to learn a lot about collegiate volleyball and a lot about the team dynamic. I was able to find a new role.”

Prince said watching games without thinking about the pressure of having to go in allowed her to learn more than ever before. That new approach to the game—and to the team—have made Prince a vital part of the Illini’s success this year.

It was also this new mental fortitude that helped Prince come back from an injury early this season.

“It was tough mentally, but I think I’ve grown a lot from where I was freshman year,” Prince said. “I was able to handle it pretty well in my head, which translates physically into just finding ways of what I can give to the team.”

Head coach Chris Tamas has called Prince the emotional leader of the team, an impressive feat considering the star power and upperclassman leadership that the now No. 7-ranked Illini have used to put together the first undefeated non-conference schedule since 2011.

It also doesn’t hurt that she is now hitting her stride on the court as the Big Ten season starts.

After missing the first three games of the year, Prince returned to the lineup for the Illini’s dominant showing at the Big Ten/Pac 12 challenge, putting up nine kills in a sweep of then-No. 21 Colorado and 13 kills in a four-set win over the hosting No. 13-ranked Washington Huskies in Seattle.

When opponents have looked to take away the Illini’s number-one hitter Jacqueline Quade, it’s Prince who has provided the offensive spark.

Prince put up a team-high 19 kills on the road against Purdue in a four-set win as well as tying a team-high with 16 kills in a two-set comeback against Indiana at home.

“[Jacqueline], the previous weeks, has done great, and they were keying on her a lot this week, and Beth stepped up,” Tamas said. “She’s always been an emotional-support, team-mom type.”

While Prince may not match her 376 kills from last year, she is on-track for career highs in many other parts of her game and has improved her efficiency as a hitter. Prince is putting up the highest digs per set (.49), blocks per set (.43) and hitting percentage (.236) of her career to go with a career-low number of errors.

As the undefeated Illini look to prove themselves again and prepare for their biggest test of the year so far against No. 3-ranked Nebraska in this year’s Stuff Huff game, Prince’s body is feeling just as good as ever.

“I feel support from everybody; I know the staff is taking good care of me,” Prince said.

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@binzy_20

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