Volleyball prepares for Loyola match

Illinois defensive specialist Rasa Virsilaite attempts to block a USC spike Saturday at Huff Hall. Illinois defeated USC in five sets. Online Poster

Illinois defensive specialist Rasa Virsilaite attempts to block a USC spike Saturday at Huff Hall. Illinois defeated USC in five sets. Online Poster

By Mike Czapar

A common obstacle for many teams throughout the world of sports is not letting up after a major victory.

The Illini women’s volleyball team just had a major victory. Now it’s their job to not let up.

After beating the previously No. 1 ranked USC Trojans Saturday night in the championship match at the State Farm Illini Classic, the No. 9 Illini look to avoid the threat of an early season letdown as they face the Loyola (Chicago) University Ramblers at Alumni Gym in Chicago Tuesday night.

Illinois leads the series with Loyola 6-2, winning last year’s match-up in four games 3-1. The Ramblers are 4-3 in the 2004 season and are coming off a four-match win streak that propelled them to win the LaSalle Bank Chicago Challenge last weekend.

Illinois head coach Don Hardin admitted that because little is known about Loyola, it makes them a dangerous team.

“We don’t really know that much about them right now except that they are a good passing team and they don’t make a lot of errors,” Hardin said. “They hit a lot of off-speed shots and they like to keep you off balance.”

This season Loyola has been led by the play of senior setter Lauren Holbrook, who has already compiled honors as the Horizon League Volleyball Player of the week and MVP of the Chicago Challenge.

The Ramblers return four starters from last year, a team that compiled a record of 18-14, finished second in the Horizon League and failed to qualify for the NCAA tournament.

Record aside, the most notable change from last year’s roster is former assistant coach Tim O’Brien’s promotion to head coach.

Coach Hardin does not think the coaching change will lead to a different style of play.

“I’m not sure if the coaching change will make the team that much different,” Hardin said. “He was the former assistant there before so I can’t see him upsetting the team too much in that respect.”

Although Hardin is unsure about the style of play the Ramblers typically have, he is sure about the talent of Loyola and the difficulty Illinois has had in Alumni Gym.

“It’s early in the season so it’s hard to tell how teams play, but I do know they’re good,” Hardin said. “And I do know that if you look in the record books over the last fifteen years, Illinois hasn’t done too good.”

The Illini look to break the losing trend Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at Alumni Gym.