Illinois volleyball rolling with healthy Dorn

It’s been a little more than two years since Anna Dorn tore her ACL.

Now, the Illini’s junior middle blocker said she’s finally feeling 100 percent.

“We weren’t sure at the beginning of the season if I was going to be able to play back-to-back nights,” Dorn said. “We weren’t sure about how much I was going to be able to jump or anything. Now I can even jump off of one foot to run behind the setter.”

It seems as if the Illini’s season has went at the pace Dorn has. Coming off a procedure during the offseason on her ACL, Dorn played sparingly in the opening matches of the season, taking full matches off to rest her knee. Freshman Maddie Mayers stepped in and replicated Dorn’s production, earning a solidified spot in head coach Kevin Hambly’s always-evolving rotation.

As the season went on, though, Dorn’s playing time gradually increased and she now has regained her ability to play on an every-night basis.

“(The recovery) to me is kind of almost a miracle in my eyes, because I didn’t know anything going into the season,” Dorn said. “It’s been really fun these past few matches.”

Dorn has been a vital piece to the Illinois front row that has been dominant in November. In the past five matches, all Illini wins, Dorn has hit the ball efficiently and has stifled the opposition equally well. In November, Dorn has a nine-to-one ratio of kills to errors, racking up 18 kills to go along with only two errors on 35 attempts. She’s also had 21 blocks in that stretch, helping to hold the Illini’s five opponents to a .186 hitting percentage. Opponents have hit an average of .209 for the season as a whole. During its recent stretch, Illinois was able to hold Iowa to a negative hitting percentage, -.048, the only negative percentage of the season against the Illini.

The re-emergence of Dorn has certainly given Illinois the late-season boost the team needed to gain a berth into the NCAA tournament. The team needs to win only one of its final four games to be eligible for the NCAA tournament, and Hambly believes they’ll make it in with one more win. Dorn’s play has also given Hambly even more confidence in his depth at middle blocker, as he can now choose between Mayers, Dorn and freshman Katie Stadick.

“Anna’s a special athlete,” Hambly said. “She’s an experienced player that has played in a lot of big matches and is good in the moment. I think having a player like that is huge and being able to move her behind the set a little bit and move some things around gives us a little more diversity in our offense.

“Certainly it’s good for us to have her back. She’s feeling more comfortable so she’s competing a little bit better too and making more plays.”

Blake can be reached at [email protected]