Illini volleyball’s Edinger likely out for season

Despite picking up two wins on the road at Purdue and Indiana, the No. 5 Illinois volleyball team appears to have come out of the trip with a loss, as senior Ashley Edinger went down with an injury in the third set of the Illini’s sweep of Purdue. The team’s starting libero is likely out for the remainder of the season, effectively ending her career at Illinois.

“Well we don’t know anything officially because of the MRI, but … it looks like it’s a torn ACL and she’s done for the year, which means she’s done for her career,” head coach Kevin Hambly told The Daily Illini On-Air on Monday evening’s Illini Drive at Five broadcast.

The Indiana native had to be helped off the floor and was replaced by sophomore Rachel Feldman.

“Ashley, being a senior, it’s really upsetting to see her in that position,” Feldman said on the Illini Drive at Five broadcast. “But she and I are great friends and I know she’s supporting me through this, and she’s handling it really, really well, which I don’t know how she is.”

Haen’s setting drives offense

The attacking trio of senior Kylie McCulley, junior Laura DeBruler and sophomore Michelle Bartsch has lit up opponents with kills galore this season, but before they can do their damage, it all comes down to Hillary Haen, the starting setter, to give them the opportunity to score.

Haen is the volleyball team’s equivalent of a quarterback, spreading the ball around the court and setting up her hitters to score. Her 11.44 assists per set rank 15th in the nation.

Last weekend, Haen’s distribution led to the trio of hitters posting high hitting percentages in a win at Purdue.

“Against Purdue, I had a very solid game, especially having three hitters hit over .300, and I hit it to the middle a lot too and they scored, too,” Haen said. “I felt pretty good with my connection with all my hitters this weekend. The passing was good this weekend, and I never feel like I can play well unless the passing is good.”

Even Johannah Bangert, who is typically busy making blocks in the middle, benefited from the distribution with six kills.

“Hillary did a great job of spreading the ball around, especially in the Purdue match,” Bangert said.

“She got to the middle a lot, which is always pretty big because that means that you’re passing really well.”

The streak continues

The victories over Indiana and Purdue extended Illinois’ winning streak to nine. This marks the longest run of wins the Illini have had since 1992, when they won 18 in a row.

“The nine-game winning streak is an awesome thing to do in the Big Ten,” Bangert said.

“If we can keep it going, that would be great. We are really focusing on getting better right now in preparation for where we can go at the end of the season.”

The Illini have accepted the pressure that comes with a long winning streak and the accompanying high ranking, realizing that teams are out to snap their run of wins.

“We learned that every single team is really good, and we have to fight really hard,” Haen said. “Right now, we’re ranked pretty high, and we’re every team’s big match. We need to keep the pressure on the whole time.”

The Illini’s last loss was on Oct. 2 at Michigan State, which will invade Huff Hall on Saturday. Before the Illini get a chance for revenge against the Spartans, they’re looking to extend their streak to 10 against No. 13 Michigan on Friday.

Staff writers Emily Bayci and Tim Ditman contributed to this article.