Volleyball facing tough schedule for upcoming season



By Meghan Montemurro

The Illinois volleyball team will not shy away from tough competition this season.

The Illini announced their 2008 schedule Tuesday which features 17 matches against 12 2007 NCAA Tournament teams, including four teams – Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Stanford – that advanced to the Sweet 16.

Illinois will open the season on Aug. 29 at home in Huff Hall with the annual State Farm Illini Classic. The round robin tournament will feature the University of North Carolina, New Mexico State and Oregon. Head coach Don Hardin said the Tar Heels “have a shot at winning the ACC this year” while New Mexico State will be a formidable opponent and Oregon “has most of their players returning.” Both the Aggies and Ducks made the NCAA Tournament last season.

“Our opening tournament may be the toughest top to bottom we’ve ever had,” Hardin said. “It’s all geared to help us for the Big Ten schedule.”

Other noted matches include the 2007 national runner-up Stanford Cardinals in the Billikin Invitational on Sept. 6 and the Dayton Flyers at the Tennessee Comcast Classic and the Tennessee Lady Vols on Sept. 12. Last season, the Flyers were the last team to lose in the NCAA, but faced a tough match against the Illini, fighting off match points to win in five games. Illinois will also face rival Illinois State in Normal, Ill., on Sept. 16. The non-conference schedule concludes Sept. 19 at home against SIU-Edwardsville in its first season as an NCAA Division I team.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

The Big Ten schedule will feature home-and-home matches against each of the 10 conference teams, which includes the 2007 NCAA champion Penn State Nittany Lions. The Illini pushed Penn State to their limit at home last season before falling in five games and will welcome the Nittany Lions to Huff Hall on Nov. 14.

With five returning starters, the Illini are in contention to make the NCAA Tournament, though they face a tough non-conference and Big Ten schedule. After a trip to Europe that saw the team finish 9-1, Hardin said the focus in the remaining offseason is on preparing for the upcoming season.

“Right now they are working really hard physically and using this opportunity to get ahead academically,” Hardin said.