Illini men’s club volleyball team begins season with Hoosier Classic

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A student on the Illinois men’s club volleyball team, sets the ball at practice in Kenney Gym Annex in Urbana.

By Cole Cruz

The Illinois men’s club volleyball team heads into its first preseason tournament of the year this weekend at the seventh annual Hoosier Fall Classic in Bloomington, Ind. While the tournament does not count toward national rankings, the team is still looking for a successful run as they try to mold into championship form.

“I think this first tournament will give everyone a chance to try and prove themselves,” said Doug Burchett, sophomore setter and vice president of club volleyball. “More importantly, we get to see what everyone’s capable of.”

It’s the progression on their strengths and weaknesses that the Illini are focusing on this upcoming weekend.

Overall development of the team and individuals is a key component in working toward becoming a contender.

According to senior defensive specialist Jim Mazurski, the tournament is considered to be more of a warm-up tournament since the talent pool hasn’t been very deep the past few seasons.

“For this first tournament we are breaking up our team into two separate teams,” Burchett said. “We really feel that both teams should be playing each other in the finals.”

The teams are separated with equal talent between the two squads, a testament to the depth of this year’s team. Last year, the process seemed to work as both squads made impressive showings at the tournament, with one of them winning it all.

“I treat the first tournament as a good way to gauge individual performance,” Mazurski said. “While there are five starters returning, every year is a new slate, meaning you have to win your position back.”

While playing with the mixed teams worked well last season at the Hoosier Fall Classic, team chemistry this early in the year still needs improvement, according to Mazurski. He went on to add that everyone takes some time to adjust to each other playing with the mixed lineups.

With only five starters returning, that means there are a lot of new faces that need to be worked in as the season goes on.

“I really feel that the team is starting to make progress, and it’s been pretty competitive with everyone competing for a spot,” Burchett said. “I don’t think we are at a level where we can be, but we are on our way there.”

The weekend tournament will consist of pool play which is followed by an elimination round.

There will be three brackets of competition: bronze, silver and gold.

The tournament will feature 17 teams, including Big Ten members Indiana and Purdue.

Other notables playing this weekend are Vanderbilt University, Western Illinois University, DePaul University and the University of Illinois at Chicago.