Volleyball team bumps Rockets in four games

By Meghan Montemurro

It was an eventful night for the Illinois volleyball team in Ohio. The Illini battled Toledo and came out on top in four games, 30-26, 30-25, 25-30, 30-21. The victory also marked Illinois head coach Don Hardin’s 200th at Illinois.

“It’s close to 20 a season, but my standard for happiness is significantly higher than that,” Hardin said when reflecting on her career with the Illini. “It’s not about my record, it’s not about how many wins I’ve had, but it’s about how many wins our program has.”

The Illini finish their nonconference schedule with an 8-2 record, accomplishing their goal of eight nonconference victories. Toledo, Ohio, native Vicki Brown had an impressive performance during her homecoming game, tallying 15 kills and hitting .429.

“It was a lot of fun just to see a lot of familiar faces out in the crowd,” Brown said. “It was a good time, and I’m glad they got to see me play.”

With the pressures of playing in front of family, Hardin thought Brown handled it well.

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“The story tonight was Vicki coming in front of her home crowd in her senior year,” Hardin said. “That could have been a huge distraction and a lot of players might not have managed that as well as Vicki did. She was really, really sharp and played her best volleyball.”

The Illini were able to get on track quickly against Toledo, taking the first two games. But the team faltered in the third game, due to Toledo’s solid serving. Hardin said Toledo was “the best serving team we’ve faced all year.”

Toledo had to switch to an aggressive serving attack in game three in order to give itself a chance to come back in the game and the adjustment paid off.

During the fourth and final game, the serve receive finally stepped up for Illinois, halting Toledo’s effective serving.

Offensively, Illinois was on target, but didn’t hit as well as it did against Southern Illinois, due mainly to a shaky pass defense. The Illini hit just .280.

Freshman Laura DeBruler stepped up again for the offense, finishing the game with 23 kills and 13 digs while hitting .228. Senior Stephanie Alde was also in double figure kills with 15 while hitting at a high rate of .440 in only her second game since returning from a back injury. Overall Hardin was pleased with his team’s performance against Toledo.

“Today was a nice win which was great, but we didn’t play as well as we would have liked,” Hardin said.

Illinois will continue on short rest as the Big Ten season starts Wednesday night with the Illini welcoming No. 9 Wisconsin to Huff Hall before hitting the road on Friday against No. 10 Michigan.