Volleyball transitions into Big Ten schedule

By Meghan Montemurro

The Illinois volleyball team will be challenged this week as Big Ten play begins. The Illini open up at home against No. 9 Wisconsin before heading to No. 10 Michigan on Saturday.

After wrapping up its nonconference schedule and finishing 8-2, Illinois head coach Don Hardin sees both positives and negatives when evaluating the team to this point.

“On the positive side, we got our eight wins we were shooting for and on the negative, we were just a few swings away from being nationally ranked ourselves,” Hardin said. “It just means keep on trucking.”

For now, the team has its sights set on the Badgers, who pose threats in their serve game and blocking. They also have some of the best outside hitters in the conference.

“Wisconsin’s a step up,” Hardin said. “They are well coached, (have) good talent and they’ve had a history of success so the players believe in themselves. We are going to have to put on our best game.”

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The young Illinois team will look to use the knowledge and experience it gained from playing two ranked teams earlier in the season.

“We are starting to step up to our next level which is where we want to be,” Edinger said. “It gives us a lot of confidence because we lost to two great teams, so it’s a good feeling knowing that we did so well and that we could have done better.”

Badger sophomore Katherine Dykstra will be one player the Illini need to focus on because of her athleticism and ability to create mismatches.

After facing a good serving team in Toledo, Illinois will experience a tougher challenge against Wisconsin, which Hardin believes is one of the best serving teams on Illinois’ schedule.

Senior Vicki Brown is confident that the team will perform well defensively after making in-game adjustments against Toledo.

“The passers have been making adjustments to what Wisconsin will bring and you can see a major difference the past few days from Toledo,” Brown said. “As long as they continue with their movement and their communication, they should be fine.”

The Illini will look to focus on themselves and their game plan against Wisconsin, especially offensively by mixing up different sets in order to keep the Badger defense honest.

“We just have to make sure to play our game and not whatever Wisconsin is doing on their side and that we don’t let that affect how we play,” Edinger said. “When we play our type of game we do good things.”

Before the game, there will be a barbecue for students outside Huff Hall. The Big Ten opener will start at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at Huff Hall.