Stuff Huff match sure to provide electric atmosphere

Last weekend at the Illinois volleyball team’s alumni match, the newcomers were warned by their teammates that the crowd was “nothing compared to what you’ll usually see,” said junior transfer Colleen Ward.

“I thought the crowd was awesome and the experience was amazing last weekend, so I am really excited to see what happens during Stuff Huff,” Ward said.

Friday night at 7 p.m. marks the fifth year of the annual Stuff Huff match at Huff Hall. Students are encouraged to support the volleyball team in its home opener against BYU.

“For people who haven’t been to a volleyball game before, its a great time to get introduced to volleyball; it’s going to be huge,” said Daniel Borup, sophomore in Engineering and co-chair of Spike Squad (the student cheering section for volleyball). “This event is a great way to be exposed to the team and feel what it’s like to be a part of the Spike Squad.”

Held early in the school year, typically the first home match of the season, the event was inspired six years ago, when Illinois defeated USC in five sets. In its first year, 2006, the attendance record was set with 3,129 fans at Stuff Huff in the season opener against Illinois State. Since then, the event has drawn around 2,000 fans.

Anna Dorn was once another one of the fans, rooting for the team and deciding if this was where she wanted to attend school.

“Just attending Stuff Huff was the best experience I ever had, better then any experience playing,” said Dorn, who is now a freshman on the team. “It’s going to be such a rush to actually be a part of it.”

With the volleyball team ranked No. 6 in the nation, it is expected to have a very large, possibly record-breaking crowd, head coach Kevin Hambly said.

“Now that all the marketing is done, we are just ready to play the match and hope people come,” Hambly said. “If we have 1,000 people here this place is still rocking, if we have 2,000 it’s incredible and if it’s 3,000 you can’t even hear yourself think. So Huff Hall is the place for us to play, and the more the better.”

The first 1,000 students who enter the gates can attend a cookout at the south side of Huff. Members of the men’s basketball team and head coach Bruce Weber will help serve at the cookout and greet students.

It provides the opportunity for students to be exposed to Illinois athletics, because it’s the first big Illini athletic event of the year, said Jay Libowtiz, junior in Business and Spike Squad co-chair.

Hambly said it’s the atmosphere at Stuff Huff that makes the experience remarkable.

“Stuff Huff is one of the coolest events on campus, there is no other event where you are that close in proximity to the players; you can literally reach out and touch the attackers when they’re hitting,” Hambly said. “When they play the school songs, it’s really hard not to get goose bumps because everybody in the place is in sync, and it’s such a great feeling.”

He added that having a solid support section of fans is also better for the players.

“I love Stuff Huff because the fans bring the excitement. We don’t have to do much motivating to get ready for the match,” senior Hilary Haen said. “The fans are amazing, they are just so much fun to play for. It just makes me so proud to be an Illinois athlete.”