Volleyball takes a break before facing Spartans

By Anthony Zilis

There will be no Illinois drumline Friday in East Lansing, Mich., when the No. 19 Illini volleyball team plays Michigan State. No television cameras or loud fans in orange will be in attendance, either.

It will just be the players and coaches. And they’re fine with that.

During an intense three-set victory on Wednesday against No. 18 Purdue, advertised as an “Orange Out,” the Illini knew they couldn’t get caught up in the atmosphere.

“I think in certain situations like that we try to focus on our side and what we can do better,” sophomore outside hitter Laura DeBruler said. “We keep it really centered on our team and … what we can do in order to try to beat the other team. So I think it’s just being really close and focused on us.”

It’ll be easy not to get lost in the excitement for the Illini on Friday. But there will still be distractions, like the task of reaching their goal of seven conference wins and staying in third place in the Big Ten with Purdue, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa, all within one and a half games, breathing down their necks.

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But Illinois has to push that all aside.

“We know we don’t play well in that mode, so it’s like a dark hole where no one wants to go, I think everybody understands,” Illinois head coach Don Hardin said.

Another obstacle the Illini will face is playing their fourth game in eight days. Hardin is aware of possible fatigue and isn’t pushing his team over the limit.

“I think the coaches are actually doing a really good job of, on the days in between, making sure that we have a game plan going into it and working on the stuff that we need to but not really doing as hard of a practice as we normally do. I feel pretty good,” DeBruler said.

Hardin emphasized that resting his players’ legs wasn’t the only reason for the cutback in practice time.

“It’s also the emotional rest,” he said. “The rest is helping us have more of an edge, I think.”

In the little time that the team did have in the gym, middle blocker Johannah Bangert said she worked with the setters on their timing – something she had been struggling with. It paid off as she tallied eight kills and didn’t commit a single error against the Boilermakers.

DeBruler is coming off one of her best games of the season with 19 kills and only four errors. But just like the rest of the team, she knows that all she has to do is keep with her fundamentals and she’ll be fine.

“I just go out there and hit, and then just try to swing high,” DeBruler said.

“As long as I can swing high and to the block, I’m usually pretty good.”