Records in reach for volleyball team ready to spike UM



By Meghan Montemurro

While a tough loss to Wisconsin ended Illinois’ six-game road win streak, the Illini will look to build on their home victory against Michigan State and start a new win streak. Saturday’s match against Michigan is also shaping up to be a night of milestones.

Freshman outside hitter Laura DeBruler continues to add to her already impressive resume while making a strong case for Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Following her 13-kill performance against the Badgers, DeBruler is only two kills away from 500 this season.

Already in the top 10 for kills in a season at Illinois, the Downers Grove native will set a new Illinois freshman record for kills in a season. Illinois head coach Don Hardin has compared DeBruler’s freshman campaign and contributions to that of former National Player of the Year Mary Eggers. She is on pace to finish with 589 kills, which would be the third best in Illinois history.

Hardin, too, is set up for a big night. With a victory against the Wolverines, Hardin would record the No. 400 for his career. His head coaching career first began at Louisville University in 1988 and he recorded his first victory on a 3-1 decision against Western Kentucky on Aug. 29, 1988.

Almost 20 years later, Hardin’s career has been a successful and consistent one.

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“When I think about 400, I give myself some kind of a B-plus grade because while it’s not an A-plus, winning 400 matches in 20 years means you’re winning 20 a season and if your average is 20 a season, that’s pretty good,” Hardin said.

However, to get win No. 400, the Illini (15-10, 7-8 Big Ten) will need to get past a tough Michigan team. In Ann Arbor, Mich., on Sept. 21, Illinois fell to the Wolverines (19-7, 7-7) in a five-game battle.

With a victory crucial, Hardin said the focus needs to be on themselves.

With some lingering injuries to sophomore Kylie McCulley and freshman Nicole Kump, getting healthy will be important but shouldn’t hinder the team from winning.

“Mentally and emotionally we have to challenge ourselves to gear up for this weekend,” Hardin said. “(Michigan) is not going to underestimate us.”

The Illini play Michigan on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Huff Hall.