Illini Classic MVP Stadick plays through broken thumb

Katie+Stadick+spikes+the+ball+during+the+game+against+Iowa+at+Huff+Hall+on+Friday%2C+Oct.+16.+Illinois+won+3-0.
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Illini Classic MVP Stadick plays through broken thumb

Katie Stadick spikes the ball during the game against Iowa at Huff Hall on Friday, Oct. 16. Illinois won 3-0.

Katie Stadick spikes the ball during the game against Iowa at Huff Hall on Friday, Oct. 16. Illinois won 3-0.

Tyler Courtney | The Daily Illin

Katie Stadick spikes the ball during the game against Iowa at Huff Hall on Friday, Oct. 16. Illinois won 3-0.

Tyler Courtney | The Daily Illin

Tyler Courtney | The Daily Illin

Katie Stadick spikes the ball during the game against Iowa at Huff Hall on Friday, Oct. 16. Illinois won 3-0.

By James Boyd and Jacob Diaz, staff writers

Illinois volleyball senior Katie Stadick broke her left thumb while making a block on the first day of the preseason.

Fortunately for the middle blocker, the break didn’t occur to her hitting hand. She now sports a white bandage on her left hand whenever she steps on the court.

Stadick was named the Illini Classic Most Valuable Player after a weekend in which she recorded 14 blocks and 33 kills, leading Illinois to a 2-1 record and a tournament title.

Although the standout senior hasn’t missed any gametime and won’t need surgery, she did admit that everyday tasks are a lot more difficult.

“It’s very hard to tie your shoes,” Stadick said. “And just some little things that you’ve never thought about your thumbs doing before. It makes it a little bit trickier.”

Turning the focus from her injury back to her team’s performance, Stadick credits sophomore Jordyn Poulter for a lot of her eye-popping plays.

“I’ve been working with Jordyn a lot during the spring and just getting stronger in the weight room,” she said. “Jordyn’s really good at seeing the blocker and getting me an open swing.”

Over the weekend, Poulter and Stadick’s chemistry was on display throughout Illinois’ three matches in the Illini Classic.

In the first match against Arkansas, Stadick matched teammate Jaqueline Quade for the highest hit percentage on the team with .571. She also matched Naya Crittenden for the team lead with three blocks. The Wisconsin-native helped her team to a three-set sweep of the Razorbacks in the opening match of the season.

The Illini looked poised to get off to a good start in the next morning’s match against Xavier after cruising past Arkansas, but sloppy play in the first set put them in a 1-0 hole early. Illinois’ offense looked stagnant, but it was Stadick who stepped up and recorded 14 kills on 20 swings, turning their match around and winning 3-1.

Head coach Kevin Hambly appreciated his senior’s toughness.

“The fact that she was out for basically two weeks and could jump in and play, wasn’t all that surprising,” Hambly said. “She’s been playing since she was a freshman, so she gets what we’re about.”

In the final match of the Illini Classic, Illinois got off to another slow start against Missouri State.

The Illini struggled to find any rhythm against the Bears and eventually lost the first set, 25-22. From then on out, the two teams traded sets until the decisive fifth set.

Stadick was a key player in Illinois’ fourth-set victory. Poulter set the table for the middle blocker to send some thunderous spikes past the

Missouri State defenders. The student section came to life with every big Stadick kill.

“When it’s a good pass, a good set and an open block it’s kind of fun to just hit hard,” Stadick said.

Illinois built momentum in the later stages of the fourth set but it did not translate over to the fifth. Missouri State got out to a quick 6-1 start and despite Illinois’ best efforts, the lead proved insurmountable.

Even though her team won its third-straight Illini Classic, Stadick wasn’t satisfied leaving her home floor on a loss.

Nicknamed “nubby” by Crittenden because of her broken thumb, the middle blocker didn’t miss a game during her junior campaign, and win or lose she doesn’t plan on missing any time this season either.

Stadick’s teammates will look for her to stay consistent and keep contributing big plays throughout the season.

“Anytime anyone gets a kill, but especially in the middle, just how fast middle attacks happen, it gets us fired up,” Poulter said.

“It gets the crowd fired up.”

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