Big Ten names Ashley Edinger as Defensive Player of Week

Big Ten names Ashley Edinger as Defensive Player of Week

By Lucas Deal

When the Illinois volleyball team suffered a three-game losing streak in late October, freshman libero Ashley Edinger decided to change her defensive approach. The change was simple: hit every ball.

This past Monday, Edinger was rewarded for her outstanding play by being named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week.

“I knew (last week) that we had to start doing something different,” Edinger said Tuesday. “We had to start winning.”

She said her motivation to play more aggressive and to get her hands on more serves was to help the team win; she never dreamed it would lead to an individual award.

“I wasn’t even thinking about (the award), I just wanted to try something different,” she said.

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Edinger is the second Illinois player to win Defensive Player of the Week honors.

Sophomore setter Lizzie Bazzetta won the award on Oct. 2.

In Illinois’ four-game victory at Iowa on Friday, Edinger recorded 30 digs for the second time this season, while adding two service aces and two assists.

Her career-high in digs is 31, which she set in September against Loyola.

For the season, Edinger is third in the Big Ten in digs per game at 4.86 and fourth in the conference in service aces with 34.

Edinger also leads the Illini with 408 digs this season and is gradually closing in on the team record of 520, which was set by current Illini senior Beth Vrdsky last season.

Edinger hopes this Player of the Week award will be the first of many. Illini head coach Don Hardin thinks it will be.

“Winning Player of the Week this week is just a preview of what’s to come with Ashley,” Hardin said. “She’s been playing great and the conference rewarded her for it.”

With a pair of critical road matches at nationally ranked Minnesota and Wisconsin this weekend, the Illini (14-10 overall, 5-9 in the Big Ten) would love to see Edinger maintain her hot hand on defense.

“Now that I’ve won this one, I want to go out and win another one next week,” Edinger said. “It’d be even better if I won it again and we had someone else win it on offense.

“It all starts with wins. We’ve got to win matches first. If we can win matches, we will all have a chance.”