Illinois volleyball opens season at Huff Hall

By Ian Gold

The Illinois squad has been patiently awaiting the start of the season, not because it’s not excited to begin the regular season, but instead because it is still being seasoned to perfection by the coaching staff.

Going into the start of the season tonight, the Illini have lofty goals. Their season does not depend solely on winning tonight’s match against Illinois State, but continuing the learning process is a must.

“We are a little farther along than I expected,” Hardin said. “But we are not as along as I would like to be. I believe that no team realizes their true potential. Some teams come closer than others.”

For the talented seniors, this game will be the first of their last season and the beginning of the team’s success rests solely on their shoulders.

“We’ve come together as a team, finally, and feel comfortable playing with each other,” said senior Jessica Belter. “It’s exciting but scary at the same time. I’m excited that we can show everyone what we have.”

What they have is extreme experience mixed with extreme youth. While Jen Hynds and Megan McDonald will be showing off their skills in the middle, a more experienced Erin Virtue will be buzzing around making plays. It is in her poise that this team’s success might lie.

“The rules change for me as the team changes,” Virtue said. “Every year the team becomes a new team; my job is to stay as steady as possible for this team.”

With so much attention aimed directly at Illinois volleyball, it is a team from Bloomington that will be looking to swoop in and steal some of the spotlight. Every player that has been around and has played the Redbirds realizes that Illinois State is coming to play and that treating them like a stepping stone to the Florida trip would be a mistake.

“Illinois State is a real scrappy team,” Hardin said. “They are emotional, and they love to play great ball against us. All their positions are strong; they play great defense and they fight. They are a solid program. When people say we should beat Illinois State easily, they don’t know how strong a team they really are.”

Along with the beginning of the new season, today is new assistant coach Mary Coleman’s birthday. The team will be working tonight to give Coleman a birthday gift and to move Hardin’s home-opening record to 9-0.

BARBEcUE

Tonight’s festivities kick off with a barbecue for students outside of Huff Hall at 6 p.m. All students will be admitted free with a University student ID.