No. 19 Illinois volleyball to travel to Ohio State, No. 23 Michigan



By Kate Munson

For most members of the No. 19 Illinois volleyball squad, this weekend’s road trip to Ohio State and No. 23 Michigan is nothing out of the ordinary. But for sophomore setter Hillary Haen, the stop in Michigan is a chance to see an old friend.

In high school, Haen and Michigan middle blocker/right-side hitter Jackie Nissen were teammates at Prairie Ridge in Crystal Lake, Ill.

“We were good friends. It was kind of fun, we were looking at similar schools so we could have ended up in the same place, but she really liked Michigan and I liked Illinois, so we’re excited to be competitors,” Haen said.

But Haen won’t get the chance to play against her this trip, as Nissen is redshirting this season following shoulder surgery, so the real competition will have to wait until next year.

“I actually told her that I’m going to be much more scared to play Michigan when she’s out there because she’s just awesome,” Haen said of Nissen. “It’s always fun when you’re playing against your friends because you know you want to be the best, and it just brings out a good competitive side.”

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 Wolverines are 14-2 on the season and 2-2 in the Big Ten. They are lead by junior outside hitter Juliana Paz, who has 180 kills this season. Senior middle blocker and LaGrange, Ill., native Beth Karpiak has added 169 kills while hitting .409.

“They are a strong opponent and it’s going to be a big match,” Michigan head coach Mark Rosen said of the opportunity to face the Illini. “We’re excited to play them, but we know that we’re going to have to play well in order to be successful.”

Meanwhile, the Fighting Illini are focused on continuing the defensive success of last weekend.

“I think our block did a really good job, and it allowed our defense to gain some more trust in our block,” junior libero Ashley Edinger said. “So I think if we carry over that connection that we have with our front row and back row with another team … I think if we stay within ourselves and we work together, I think we’ll be able to take care of it a lot quicker and a lot easier.”

Before the Illini can face Michigan, they will battle Ohio State on Saturday.

The Buckeyes are 10-6 overall and 1-3 in the Big Ten playing under new head coach Geoff Carlston.

“We’ve got a pretty young team. We have one senior on the squad,” Carlston said. “I think the big thing so far is we’ve had three starters out pretty much all year long, so the injury bug has kind of hit us pretty hard, but I think the team has showed a lot of resiliency through it.”

Leading the way for Ohio State is junior middle blocker Kristen Dozier, with 171 kills on the season.

Illinois head coach Don Hardin said he isn’t concerned about his squad letting its guard down against the unranked Buckeyes.

“I think everyone on this team believes and understands that either one of these teams can beat us. It doesn’t matter what they’re ranked,” Hardin said. “We know that either one of them can beat us, so that’s a true challenge.”