Illinois volleyball no superman



By Anthony Zilis

Two weekends ago, the Illinois volleyball team found out it wasn’t invincible with its first loss against powerhouse Stanford. Last weekend reaffirmed that fact, as Dayton didn’t need kryptonite to defeat the Illini (5-2) in five sets at the Tennessee Comcast Classic.

Rather, the Flyers used a balanced attack, which included All-American setter Erin Schroeder and hitters Nicole Bateman and Lindsay Fletemier, who combined for 31 kills, to beat No. 17 Illinois on Friday (20-25, 25-23, 20-25, 25-21, 15-8).

But Illinois sophomore Laura DeBruler and her team refuse to use the caliber of their opponent as an excuse for the loss, instead blaming lackluster play.

“They really came out ready to go, and we weren’t as on top of it as we needed to be,” the outside hitter said of the fifth set, in which the Illini couldn’t overcome a 2-8 deficit.

Head coach Don Hardin expressed concern over the Illini’s offensive continuity during the match.

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“We really didn’t play as sharp as we have been playing,” Hardin said. “I think we were a little inconsistent with our ball control.”

Hardin said the cohesiveness between the Illinois outside hitters and middle blockers wasn’t what it should have been, which was a reason for the team’s season-high 31 errors.

DeBruler eventually admitted that the play of Dayton took the Illini out of their element and may have had something to do with their poor play.

“They dug everything, we weren’t playing our game,” she said.

DeBruler said the loss taught the team an important lesson – that they always need to come out fighting and playing with consistency.

The Illini used that lesson when they were forced to make a quick turnaround, beating Tennessee in five sets hours later (22-25, 25-21, 25-22, 21-25, 15-11) and then Garner Webb in three on Sunday (25-11, 25-12, 25-9).

Hardin said his team was called upon to come out with increased concentration and it answered. But he didn’t have to do any motivating in the locker room to get his team back in the right mindset.

“I think they are mature enough not to let (the Dayton game) get them rattled,” he said.

In the blowout against Garner Webb, the Illini were able to use different lineups, inserting freshman Michelle Bartsch on the left side and starting sophomore Nicole Kump.

Kump said the Illini proved they were a team with depth beyond their starters, and being able to play little-used players was a great advantage for them.

“We’re a very versatile team,” she said. “It helped us work on things as individuals.”

But Kump also said the players were able to grow as a team, improving communication.

DeBruler added that the team learned from this weekend they can’t come out thinking they’re unbeatable in any game.

“With our style of play, winning those long rallies, we have to be on all the time,” she said.