Crucial Big Ten matches await Illini

 

 

By Kyle Diller

It’s been just more than a month since the volleyball team suffered heartbreak at the hands of Minnesota, losing in five sets at Huff Hall on Oct. 3. But don’t expect the Illini to get caught up in the prospect of revenge when they face off against the Golden Gophers on Saturday.

“I don’t think the team is thinking that way, I’d be happy if they weren’t, and I’m pretty sure they’re not because we don’t play well coming from that angle,” head coach Don Hardin said. “We’re much more concerned about Iowa right now.”

This weekend will be key for the No. 16 Illini, who sit second in the Big Ten standings – just one game ahead of No. 17 Minnesota. However, before the Orange and Blue take on Minnesota, they’ll face a surging Iowa squad on Friday, which stands eighth in the Big Ten.

“(Minnesota’s) a key matchup, granted, because when we play each other we’re going to have bigger movement,” Hardin said. “A loss against Iowa and a win against Minnesota is almost a wash. We’re all on each other’s heels in a 20-match race, and these last eight matches are all important. A win against Minnesota would be sweet, but we can’t think that way right now because Iowa is critical for us.”

Sophomore Laura DeBruler could prove to be crucial for the Illini, as she has all season, ranking in the top 10 in the Big Ten in both kills and digs, while recording nine 20-kill matches.

“Every single game in the Big Ten is a huge fight because everyone is so close and everyone is competitive,” DeBruler said.

“You never know who’s really going to step out on the floor. It will definitely be a good match.”

Junior Ashley Edinger will also factor into this weekend’s outcome following a week in which she broke the Illini career digs record and was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week.

This weekend could also be a big for Kayani Turner, who has experienced a lengthy spell of injuries. The senior does seem to be on the mend, though, after playing limited minutes against Michigan last Friday. Despite the time lost due to injuries, she remains positive and focused on team success.

“I’m ready to go whenever they’re ready to put me in, they kind of have me on reserve, but whenever they’re ready for me, I’m ready,” Turner said. “This is totally what I can do for them … if they’re better off with me on the sidelines watching, until they need me to come in, I’m sure ready for that.”