Vital players earn top awards



Freshman Laura DeBruler was also named Big Ten Player of the Week. She helped lead the Illinois volleyball team to two victories over Michigan State and Northwestern.

Against the Wildcats, DeBruler contributed 20 kills and posted a .487 attack percentage with only one error in 39 attempts. Head coach Don Hardin said DeBruler is deserving of the award.

“You don’t get individual recognition without the team performing well,” Hardin said. “She’s carrying a load that is remarkable for a freshman and she’s handled it great.”

On the weekend, DeBruler averaged almost five kills a game and is now second in the Big Ten in kills per game with 4.67. She is the first Illini player to be named Big Ten Player of the Week since Rachel VanMeter, who won it twice in 2005. DeBruler is also the first freshman at Illinois to be awarded the honor since Sue Nucci in 1991.

“I just go out and play, and I just want to win,” DeBruler said. “Lizzie (Bazzetta) is doing an awesome job getting the ball to me and others and finding out who is open.”.”

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After his breakout game against Penn State on Saturday, Illini freshman wide receiver Arrelious Benn was named the Big Ten’s Special Teams Player of the Week.

The conference announced Benn’s award on Monday following his performance against the Nittany Lions. Benn returned a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown following a Penn State field goal. The return was the first touchdown of his career and sparked the Illini to an upset of then-No. 21 Penn State.

“The field just opened up for me,” Benn said about his return. “I saw Brit Miller, Martez (Wilson) and Vontae (Davis) pave the way for me and I was able to finish it off. We have an awesome kickoff return team and they opened the hole and I took it to the house.”

The Washington D.C. native also caught six passes for 84 yards and a touchdown.

The award is the first weekly award of his career and he becomes the first true freshman in the conference to win it since Northwestern’s Tyrell Sutton won the award on Sept. 12, 2005.

The last Illini freshman to win the award, punter Steve Fitts, was honored on Oct. 17, 1998 following Illinois’ 37-3 loss to Wisconsin.

“It’s an honor to be named player of the week as a freshman,” Benn said. “I worked hard and I’m very thankful.”