Men’s club volleyball tops alumni, loses annual Illini 16 tourny

The Illinois Men’s club volleyball team played its only home matches of the season Saturday as it held its annual Illini 16 tournament.

Sixteen club teams from the Big Ten and the Midwestern region competed in a tournament that begins with round robin group play before moving to a single-elimination style tournament.

The Illini men’s team handily won its group, defeating Iowa’s B squad, Purdue and the Illini alumni without entering a third, tie-breaking game in any match.

The match that stood out the most to the team, however, was the clash against some of its graduated teammates on the alumni team.

“It was enjoyable, it’s good to see them come back and play some volleyball. Most of them still got it,” current player Steve Carrington said.

Prior to the match, the players exchanged handshakes and hugs, but that did not decrease the match’s level of competition. The first game employed the win-by-two rule with the current Illini eventually winning 29-27. The second game was tightly played as well, but the actives prevailed again 25-23.

The Illini’s chemistry — as demonstrated by the warm welcoming of alumni — plays a large role in their success.

“The biggest thing I love about the team is the chemistry. It’s better than any team I’ve ever been on,” senior Kyle Bettenhausen said. “If you’re not getting along together, you’re not going to win.”

And win they have. The team has won the Illini 16 for the past three years, and it has taken home numerous other tournament titles, including the men’s club 2009-10 Big Ten Tournament.

“We definitely have some of the best athletes playing club, and that helps us compete at a high level,” Carrington said.

The team does not even have a coach, but they look upon that as a blessing, not a burden.

“It’s more relaxed, especially because we don’t have a coach, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to win,” Club President Henry Gottlieb said.

After winning their pool, the men advanced to the knockout stage of the tournament. In the first match they defeated Iowa’s A squad, 25-23, 25-17. But Missouri’s squad halted Illinois’ quest for a four-peat.

“It was a good semi-final match, I was excited for it because they have some things that we don’t always see, but it was a tough loss,” Carrington said.

Wisconsin later beat Missouri in the final to win the Illini 16 tournament.

Although disappointed, the Illini still enjoyed the opportunity to host a tournament, rather then traveling to one.

“Its nice playing at home, you don’t have to sleep at some random school, you can just go home to your own bed,” Carrington said.