Illini look for resurgence against lowly Hawkeyes



By Meghan Montemurro

It’s a new weekend for an Illinois volleyball team looking to move past a rough set of games at home. The Illini head to Iowa City, Iowa, to face a Hawkeye team that has lost five of its last six games.

While Iowa is only 1-5 in the Big Ten this season, Illinois is not looking past the Hawkeyes. Iowa lost to No. 17 BYU and No. 22 LSU in five games and beat No. 11 Michigan for its only conference victory. Illinois head coach Don Hardin is expecting a battle.

“They aren’t always a power team, but they do have people that can hit the ball well,” Hardin said. “But their philosophy is to keep the ball in play and not make a lot of errors, so you have to beat them because they aren’t going to beat themselves.”

After getting limited by Purdue on Monday night, the matchup between senior Vicki Brown and the inside blocking of Iowa will be an area to watch.

“You counteract that by having different options,” Brown said. “If you want to camp out on one player, then here’s another player and here’s another player.”

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After close matches against ranked teams this season, the Illini expect another one when they travel to No. 11 Minnesota on Saturday. Before losing to No. 3 Penn State last weekend, the Gophers had won eight straight games.

Their other three losses of the year came to ranked teams – No. 23 Ohio, No. 2 Stanford and No. 15 California.

The game will also put two of the best freshmen in the Big Ten – and possibly the country – against each other when Illinois’ Laura DeBruler takes the court against Brook Dieter of Minnesota.

Dieter averages 4.02 kills per game compared to DeBruler’s 4.64, which is third in the country for freshmen.

“They don’t play like typical freshmen, they are pretty experienced and they have a lot of youth national team experience,” Hardin said.

“The kids are very well seasoned for freshmen,” Hardin added.

Hardin was hoping to have outside hitter Kylie McCulley return to the lineup, but she will remain sidelined for another week after facing a setback due to pain in her foot.

The Illinois game against Iowa begins at 7 p.m. in Iowa City on Friday, and Saturday’s match with Minnesota begins at 7 p.m. as well.