Volleyball team has momentum entering games against Michigan, Michigan State

Volleyball team has momentum entering games against Michigan, Michigan State

By Jessica Warchall

Illinois volleyball (11-3, 2-2) is on the rebound after winning its past two outings in the Big Ten. It looks to push itself to 4-2 in the conference as it faces Michigan State and Michigan on the road tonight and Sunday, respectively.

Michigan volleyball (13-4, 0-4) began the season ranked 22nd in the nation. They are no longer ranked and have lost their past four games, leaving them winless in the Big Ten. Michigan State (10-4, 1-3) also lost its past two outings.

Even with the opponents’ losses, sophomore outside hitter Kayani Turner said the Big Ten teams are so closely matched than any team can upset any other.

“Right now we’re preparing mentally and physically,” Turner said. “We have to make sure that we keep our game level high; we can’t fall back down thinking we’ve won so everything is going to be easy.”

Head coach Don Hardin said the main factor that will decide the match against the Wolverines is the outside hitting match-ups between the two teams.

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Junior outside hitters Amy Palash and Turner will have to focus on reading the Michigan offense and answering appropriately.

Hardin said the winner of the Michigan-Illinois match will be the team that is willing to “gut it out.”

The Spartans have solid ball control and do not make mistakes, Hardin said.

Palash said the Illini will focus on their side of the net and not worry about what their opponents are doing to execute; the Illini will focus on playing their style of volleyball.

“If we have our intensity and we get a flow going, not many people can stop us,” Palash said.

Turner said Illinois will play this weekend as though it is facing the top teams in the Big Ten in order to play its best volleyball.

Even though the Illini have momentum going in to this weekend’s play, Hardin said the win and loss records of the three teams will not be a factor in who comes out on top.

“We know we can win both matches, and it could go the other way if we’re not focused,” Hardin said.

Palash is confident the Illini will focus this weekend to boost its Big Ten record.

“It’s really important for us to come back with something in our pockets from these two matches,” Hardin said.

“They’re critical to whether or not we’re going to finish in the lower division or the upper division of the Big Ten and have a shot at the NCAA tournament.”