Illini of the Week: Ashley Edinger

 

 

By Kate Munson

Late in the second set of Saturday’s volleyball match against Ohio State, the student section at Huff Hall began a countdown. They were waiting for junior libero Ashley Edinger to rewrite the Illini record books. And with her ninth dig of the night, Edinger did just that, becoming Illinois’ career digs leader with 1,442.

After the match, Edinger acknowledged she heard the fans counting down, but said she was only focused on defeating Ohio State. And while Edinger is proud of the record, she still expects more from herself.

“(I’m) hoping for better things in the future and just looking ahead,” Edinger said. “I’m really happy that it happened at home so I can celebrate with everybody, but there’s more to come.”

Head coach Don Hardin anticipates Edinger to set the bar high for future Illini hoping to add their names to the career digs list. Part of that is because the junior is playing the relatively new position of libero.

Implemented by the NCAA in 2002, the libero is generally the most talented defensive player on the team. Edinger is just the third libero in Illinois history, following in the footsteps of Lauren Harks (2001-2004) and Beth Vrdsky (2003-2006). But Edinger has redefined the position for the Illini, starting every set at libero for the past three seasons. Tracey Marshall, the now-former record holder for digs, climbed the ranks playing in a much different individual system than her successor.

“Tracy only played back row for three rotations. (Marshall) deserves credit for this because it’s amazing her record has stood this long with the liberos,” Hardin said. “The difference now is that Ashley, as a libero, is going to set a new bar.”

Marshall wore the Orange and Blue from 1996-1999. As an outside hitter, Marshall didn’t have the opportunity to amass the number of digs in her career that Edinger likely will.

“This is nothing compared to what she’s going to do in her career,” Hardin added. “She keeps getting better month by month and her record is going to be through the roof, and it will be a record I think that will be a real tough bar to cross.”

But that doesn’t mean Edinger always gets the respect she deserves.

“We take her for granted, of course we do, we take a lot of things for granted she does because she does them so well and she makes them look easy,” Hardin said. “But she always gets several really remarkable digs. There’s always one a game that’s good for some kind of highlight reel.” Edinger still has a full season to leave a high standard for future Illini. But the junior isn’t all about records. She also brings intangibles to the floor. And that isn’t going unnoticed by her teammates.

“The energy and just the drive that she brings to our team is incredible. And the plays that she makes, I know for myself I get really fired up and wanting to dig balls and just continuing plays,” sophomore outside hitter Laura DeBruler said “She brings a lot to our team. More than probably she gets the recognition for.”

Despite the impact of her individual accomplishments, and the resulting praise from teammates and coaches, Edinger expressed caution against basing her priorities anywhere except in the success of the program.

“It’s Illinois volleyball,” she said. “It’s not about Ashley Edinger.”

Editor’s Note: The Daily Illini sports desk sits down on Sunday nights and decides which Illinois athlete is our Illini of the Week. Student-athletes are evaluated by individual performance, contribution to team success and personal achievement.

Honorable Mention

Matt Eller – Football

The placekicker kicked a 46-yard field goal with 24 seconds remaining on the clock Saturday, to lead the Illini to a 27-24 victory against Iowa.

Brad Hoelzer – Hockey

The junior scored two goals and had five assists in the Illini’s two-game series last weekend against Robert Morris. Hoelzer helped the Illini recover from its first loss in two years by sweeping the series.