Illinois volleyball looks to stay on a roll in Indiana

The No. 6 Illinois volleyball team hits the road this weekend as it travels to Indiana and Purdue, but for senior Ashley Edinger this weekend will actually be a homecoming.

Many of Edinger’s high school friends attend the two opposing schools, meaning the matches may just be slightly less hostile with the Michigan City, Ind., native on the court.

“Actually most (of my friends) are like, ‘I’m coming to cheer for you,'” Edinger said. “Most of them came to all my games in high school too, so a lot of them are just going to come cheer on us actually.”

Friday night’s matchup against the Hoosiers marks the start of the second half of Big Ten play, and the Illini sit in second place with an 8-2 conference record. When the Illini met these two teams earlier in the year, they swept the Hoosiers and beat the Boilermakers in five sets, part of their current seven-match winning streak.

“We don’t really feel super comfortable with playing these two teams, so we have work on overcoming some of our weaknesses,” head coach Kevin Hambly said. “They exploit those weaknesses. We saw had Purdue every chance in the world to beat us. Indiana played one of their worst matches of the year (when we met earlier this season), they’re going to come out and be on fire.”

The Illinois defense has come on really strong in recent weeks, culminating with junior Johannah Bangert posting 22 block assists in a pair of wins last weekend, making her the leading blocker in the country. Bangert averages 1.67 blocks per set.

“If we can block as well as we did this past weekend, we should be in good shape,” Bangert said. “Two Big Ten wins on the road is a really big deal. We’re on the road again this weekend, so that’s what we’re looking to do.”

As the defense continues to shine, Hambly is also impressed with the offensive prowess of the team. In the first half of the conference season, the attacking trio of senior Kylie McCulley, junior Laura DeBruler and sophomore Michelle Bartsch wreaked havoc on opponents.

Purdue will have Illinois’ attacking ability fresh in its mind after McCulley and DeBruler had 20 kills apiece against the Boilermakers at Huff Hall on Oct. 9.

While there will be plenty of competing going on over the weekend, the team is also looking forward to a little fun too with Halloween on Saturday.

“It should be a fun weekend because of Halloween,” Edinger said. “There will be fun people dressed up for the games.”