Volleyball looks to score success at home; Coach Hardin two victories shy of 400 mark

By Meghan Montemurro

Whether it’s a little bit of luck or a lot of solid play, the Illinois volleyball team hopes to have its road success carry over to Huff Hall this weekend.

In a tie for third place with Purdue, the Illini (14-8, 6-6 in Big Ten) will look to continue to move up in the congested conference standings. There is only a one-game difference between places three through 10.

One area of focus for Illinois will be its composure on the home court.

“The key factor is maintaining composure and tempo,” coach Don Hardin said. “I think our players want to win so badly for the home crowd they get anxious.”

First on tap this weekend is the Northwestern Wildcats (14-9, 5-7), a team the Illini defeated 3-0 on the road on Sept. 29. However, the Wildcats team is not the same one the Illini easily disposed of. With new personnel on the court, the Wildcats will present some challenges for the Illini, especially in their serving game.

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“If our team and if our players approach them as a team that we are supposed to beat easily, then we’ll have some trouble,” Hardin said. “We will also have to do better at blocking the slide.”

Michigan State (14-9, 5-7) will be no pushover, either. The Spartans put up a fight against the Illini; however, they eventually fell to Illinois in five games. With strong outside hitting, the Illini will look to be sharp on the defensive side of the ball and start out the second half of their Big Ten home schedule.

“It’s kind of like a new season, so we are letting go and starting fresh,” libero Ashley Edinger said.

Defensively, the team will be without defensive specialist Kristine Anderson for the rest of the season. Anderson tore her ACL in her left leg. Freshman Lea Zarytsky is expected to get more playing time as a result of the injury.

Reigning Big Ten Player of the Week Laura DeBruler looks to continue her hot hitting ways at Huff Hall this weekend. DeBruler leads the Big Ten in kills per game with 4.91, which is good for 19th in the nation. She is also only second to Florida A&M;’s Jovanna Blazeski, who is 16th with 4.98 kills per game among all freshmen.

With two victories this weekend, head coach Don Hardin will have 400 for his coaching career. He has 206 wins at Illinois.

Illinois welcomes Northwestern to Huff Hall on Friday at 7 p.m. and Michigan State on Saturday at 7 p.m.