DeBruler leads Illini volleyball to two Big Ten road wins

Playing on the road is always difficult, especially in Big Ten volleyball, as lengthy bus rides and packed gyms filled with rooting and heckling fans are expected. This weekend, though, the Illini faithful showed that, when it comes to fans, size isn’t the only thing that matters.

Playing on the road is always difficult, especially in Big Ten volleyball, as lengthy bus rides and packed gyms filled with rooting and heckling fans are expected. This weekend, though, the Illini faithful showed that, when it comes to fans, size isn’t the only thing that matters.

“At Iowa, we had a student section show up with about 15 guys, and they were awesome,” Illinois head coach Kevin Hambly said. “They were louder than Iowa’s entire crowd. That was exciting to have them kind of travel with us and give us a little bit of energy.”

With two wins on the road against Wisconsin and Iowa last weekend, the No. 8 Illinois volleyball team has extended its winning streak to seven and sits second in the Big Ten at the conclusion of the first half of Big Ten conference play.

The Illini opened up the weekend in Madison, Wis., but failed to get off to a good start with the Badgers edging out the first set 26-24. From that point on, though, it was the Illini’s weekend, as they took the next three sets, 27-25, 25-10, 27-25.

The momentum travelled with the team to Iowa as they swept the Hawkeyes, 25-23, 25-15, 25-22. The victory brought the Illini to 16-3 on the season and 8-2 in the Big Ten.

“Any Big Ten victory anywhere is good, especially travelling,” junior Laura DeBruler said. “It’s kind of a good way to finish off the first half of the Big Ten. We’re definitely getting much better with every game, so hopefully we can just continue with that hard work and still get better in the second half.”

Last season’s NCAA blocks leader, junior Johannah Bangert, showed what a threat she is to opposing offenses, totaling 22 block assists in the two matches.

“I was really happy with my personal play this weekend,” Bangert said. “I think I also have to give a lot of credit to our wing blockers because they did a really good job of blocking as well. I think I did a good job, but I think they did a good job too.”

DeBruler and senior Kylie McCulley led the attacking threat with 16 kills a piece against Wisconsin, while DeBruler posted 17 against the Hawkeyes.

“Sometimes people have a good statistical performance, but there’s a lot of things that go into winning a match, and I think we’re getting a good team effort from everybody,” Hambly said.

With the first half of the Big Ten season out of the way, Hambly is happy with how the team is progressing.

“I think we’re right on schedule,” Hambly said. “We just need to make sure that we don’t try to maintain where we are and continue to push to get better and better every single night and every single practice.”