Illinois to say goodbye to seniors

By Jessica Warchall

Three seniors will play in their last home games at Huff Hall this weekend.

Beth Vrdsky, Stephanie Obermeier and Meghan Macdonald hope to end their 14-12, 5-11 season on a high note during senior night.

Illinois volleyball hosts Indiana and Purdue at 7 p.m. tonight and Saturday, respectively.

“We’re saying goodbye to a senior class whose had an unusual experience here at Illinois,” head coach Don Hardin said. “They started out great – NCAA championships, nationally ranked upsets and beat the No. 1 team in country.”

But in the middle of their careers, these Illini seniors saw a change in coaching staff, injuries and less playing time because of incoming freshmen.

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However, Hardin said they maintained energy and supported everyone throughout their years.

“It’s sad that it’s our last home game, but we’re trying to work hard,” middle blocker Macdonald said. “Everyone’s excited about this weekend – not just because it’s senior night – we want to get back into our groove.”

The Illini have worked hard on their block, Hardin said.

The team has looked at problems it has had in the past with its block against Indiana and Purdue, which should allow for more consistency, Hardin said.

“We’ve been working really hard in practice and it’s starting to show in the games,” senior defensive specialist Vrdsky said. “We’re starting to steady out, and unfortunately, we don’t have much of the season left.”

Indiana (10-18, 1-15) is currently last in the Big Ten. In the season’s previous meeting, Illinois took three of four games to win the match.

No. 24 Purdue (19-8, 9-7) is ranked fifth in the Big Ten and swept the Illini earlier this season in West Lafayette, Ind. Vrdsky is looking to reverse that score and said Purdue has a fast offense.

“The challenge we are faced with is finding motivation to keep fighting hard,” Hardin said. “The (team is) giving what they can give; they’re not folding up shop, and they’re working hard.”

Sophomore outside hitter Kayani Turner is still sitting out practices. Hardin said she will most likely not see court time this weekend. He said the team is missing her energy and her smooth playing style on the court.

As for the postseason, the Illini must win their last four matches to have a shot at the NCAA tournament. Hardin said all the team can do now is hope for ranked upsets.

Final regular season matches

Volleyball’s final games of its regular season will be held in some of the hardest gyms to play in, Hardin said.

The Illini will be on the road to face the Nittany Lions on Nov. 24 and the Buckeyes on the 25th.

“This makes for a hard ending, or it’s a great opportunity for a great ending,” Hardin said.

No. 3 Penn State is currently first in the Big Ten with only two losses on the season. The team (25-2, 14-2) is looking to repeat its match against Illinois in the teams’ first meeting this season.

Penn State swept Illinois in three games, but the Illini put up a fight, pushing games one and three to 34-32 and 32-30, respectively. Illinois is looking for an unexpected win.

Ohio State (19-7, 9-7) is currently 23rd in the nation and fourth in the Big Ten. When the teams met in October, the Illini put away the Buckeyes in an easy three-game sweep.

Hardin said Ohio State is playing well now and is known as the hardest school in the conference to play at.

“You can count on one hand the number of times our program has won at Penn State,” Hardin said. “It’s going to be a rare opportunity for us to do something we’ve never done before in a year of craziness – it might be an appropriate ending.”