Illini come home to Huff Hall

By Brian Binz, Staff Writer

For the first time in the 2018 season, the Illinois volleyball team will have a game at Huff Hall.

While it may be a familiar haven for both students and athletes, for opponents, Huff’s looks may be misleading.

“A lot of people are confused coming into Huff,” said Senior Setter Jordyn Poulter. “You walk in the doors and see a bunch of classrooms, then you open one of the wooden doors and, ‘Oh wow, here’s the gym!’”

Despite the somewhat confusing layout, there are few places better made to help the Illini keep their early season success going than Huff Hall, where the Illini have won over 60 percent of their games in the last three years.

“We can get a lot of fans in here,”  Poulter said. “Being in one of the older buildings has a really historic feel to it. It’s fun to be a part of that history.”

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    The team spent the first month of the season traveling the country to different preconference tournaments, but Poulter said it’s not anything they couldn’t handle.

    “It feels like the story of my time here,” Poulter said. “It just kinda comes with the territory.”

    The Illini look to continue their season-opening winning streak, which has grown to eight games in a row without a loss. Three of those wins came over ranked opponents at the time in Colorado State, Colorado and Washington.

    Winning their three games this weekend at the Illini Classic Tournament would give the Illini their first undefeated nonconference schedule since 2011, when they went 32-5 on the way to a national title game appearance.

    “Coming into the gym every day and seeing how hard we work as a collective group, it leads to a highly successful season,” Poulter said. “Our mantra is ‘take everything one game at a time.’”

    Poulter said the experience gained last year has given the squad a level of steadiness that wasn’t there with last year’s young team.

    “When you have nine freshmen, you just hope they remember things,” Poulter said. “Everyone being a year older really helps.”

    This start has not gone unnoticed in the eyes of the media, who have the Illini ranked in the top 10 in the NCAA at No. 8.

    Despite the flawless record and media attention, head coach Chris Tamas and the Illini are keeping their heads down.

    “I don’t pay too much attention to the rankings. It’s more about what we continue to do and where you finish,” Tamas said.

    Illinois will start with Northern Iowa on Friday, but the Saturday matchup with NCAA No. 10-ranked Creighton looms large on Saturday.

    “It’s good to play other teams that have done well,” Poulter said, “We’re excited.”

    The Blue Jays enter this weekend with a 6-3 record, but two of their three losses have come against top 10-ranked teams in USC and Nebraska.

    Creighton also lost in straight sets to Northern Iowa in the Trojan Invitational at USC.

    The last time the Illini played a top 10-ranked opponent at home was last year, when they lost to then-No. 9-ranked Stanford in three games.

    “We expect a good fight from (all three teams),” Tamas said. “You better be ready to take it from everyone.”

    The Illini have done everything Tamas has wanted so far this year, and there’s another box to check off this weekend.

    “We’ve won in every time zone so far,” said Tamas.


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