High expectations for men’s volleyball team

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By Alex Paull

In the Thursday, Sept. 25 edition of The Daily Illini, the article “Men’s volleyball team sets high expectations” reported the Blue Team came within a game of making the National Championship match, and the Blue Team promoted two players from the Orange Team this season.

The Blue Team actually came within a game of winning the National Championship, and three players were promoted from the Orange Team this season.

The Daily Illini regrets the error.

After a strong season in which the Blue Team, Illinois Club Volleyball’s top squad, came within a game of making the National Championship match, they are back to compete again. The heartbreak of defeat from coming so close would typically deflate a team’s spirit.

Just don’t mention that to anyone on the Illini squad.

With the season kicking off in less than three weeks, expectations have been raised to a new level and anything less than a Championship is unacceptable.

The club had one of the highest turnouts ever at its tryouts Sept. 9.

According to Doug Burchett, president and co-captain of the Blue Team, the team kept roughly 40 of the 86 players who tried out for one of the club’s three teams. One newcomer was selected by the Blue Team, which is otherwise composed of all returning club players.

The addition of a freshman to a veteran squad isn’t a concern for either of the captains, though.

Miles Kilgallon, a senior staple of the 14-member Blue Team and co-captain, is very excited about this year.

“This is a veteran group of kids who are starting on the same page,” Kilgallon said. “Not having to teach the team the basics is a huge relief and will help get the team prepared quicker.”

If there is any concern about the team, it lies with regaining the chemistry from last year. Burchett notes the upcoming weeks are a chance for the team to get acclimated again and regain the chemistry as it moves forward.

“After last semester’s success, it’s just a matter of clicking again and transitioning from summer hiatus back into a competitive mentality,” Kilgallon said.

Along with the addition of a freshman, the Blue Team promoted two players from the Orange Team to the mix. Junior Brendan Ori, the club’s treasurer, has already noticed the differences from playing on the Orange Team last year to the Blue Team this year.

“The game feels a lot faster and the competition is greater,” Ori said. “There is a strong need to step up my game and stay more alert. There is no room to bring the effort level down on the Blue Team.”

Ori not only has high expectations for the team but expects more out of the players as individuals for the season.

Henry Gottlieb, the other call-up, is also expected to step up and battle for a spot.

“We’re looking for someone to step into the role of the second outside hitter,” Burchett said. “We want (Gottlieb) fighting for a position, and see which player really wants it the most.”

Ultimately, neither has any concern about playing time and both understand the team-first philosophy, doing whatever is asked of them to win a National Championship.

The first test for the team in its pursuit of the National Championship is the Hoosier Fall Classic, which kicks off Oct. 4. While Burchett acknowledges the tournament does not have much bearing on its season, he hopes the team will learn from it to get ready for the tough schedule that lies ahead come winter.

“The tournament is the team’s litmus test to see where we need improvement and what needs more focus in practice to improve for the rest of the season,” Kilgallon said. “The goal is to win every tournament, and this is just the first step.”

While the team lost in the quarterfinals last season, just one year after winning the tournament, Burchett envisions an all-Illini final this year.

“I like where things are right now,” Burchett said. “I feel the team is deeper this year, and I think we can win it.”