ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Men’s club volleyball team to face Lewis University

By ME Online

The Illinois men’s club volleyball squad is looking to make some noise against the stacked field this weekend at the Lewis Pre-Season Tournament in Romeoville, IL.

The tournament will provide the toughest challenge yet for the Illini (13-1), who are coming off a loss two weeks ago to the University of Marquette in the semifinals of the Hawkeye-Illini Classic. There will be six varsity teams, nine United States of America Volleyball (USAV) teams, and five collegiate club teams.

“I believe we have the chance to stir things up this weekend if we stay focused and play smart volleyball,” sophomore setter Doug Burchett said. “There’s nothing more frustrating for a ‘better’ team than to lose to an underdog.”

Illinois is going to be tested against Lewis University and Loyola University-Chicago, two top-notch Division 1-A programs.

“We’ll obviously have to keep our eyes out for everyone, but we do have our sights on one team,” junior setter Chris Walstra said. “We will play Lewis University during pool play, and I think our biggest goal is to beat them.”

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The Illini are hoping that the added intensity and hard work in practice will pay off this weekend. Team blocking and defense was of extra emphasis the past two weeks as the inability to be consistent on the defensive end hurt the team in Iowa City.

“Our offense is our best attribute, but without the defense to go along with it, we’ve seen that we can struggle,” Walstra said.

A big lift for the Illinois squad this weekend is the return of middle blocker Ryan Fabrizius from knee injury. The senior will not be 100-percent however, and is actually scheduled to see an orthopedist to get a medical opinion. Arthroscopic surgery will likely be involved.

Even with Fabrizius back, the consistency issue is somewhat of a concern, especially with the team switching lineups as often as the Illini do.

“The big fix that we need to rebound from Iowa is consistency, which can only come from mental toughness,” Fabrizius said. “We really need to work tough in practice and compete against the good teams that we will see this weekend in order to strengthen our team mentally.”

Fabrizius believes that the keys to success are consistent passing, solid blocking, and mental toughness.

“The intensity (in practice) has been pretty good, so hopefully it carries over into this weekend,” Burchett said.

After this weekend’s tournament, Illinois will be hosting its only tournament of the year next weekend, Nov. 11.