Illinois releases volleyball schedule

A+post+from+the+official+Illinois+volleyball+Instagram+details+the+teams+schedule+for+the+2020-2021+season.

Photo Courtsey of Illinois Volleyball's Instagram

A post from the official Illinois volleyball Instagram details the team’s schedule for the 2020-2021 season.

By Wes Hollenberg, Staff Writer

After months of anticipation, the Illini finally have a volleyball schedule. This season will be like no other, consisting of 22 regular-season conference-only games. These will be done in the format of 10 two-game series — five at home and five away — along with a single week where there is both a home and an away game.

The regular season kicks off on Jan. 22 at Iowa and concludes on April 3 at Purdue. After a two-game series at Iowa from Jan. 22-23, Illinois will begin its home schedule against Wisconsin at Huff Hall for two games on Jan. 30-31. Illinois then visits Penn State to play two games on Feb. 5-6.

On Feb. 9 and 13, Illinois will face Northwestern at home and away respectively. This is the only split series of the season and was determined by the NCAA due to proximity. Afterward, Illinois hosts Ohio State on Feb. 19-20 before traveling to East Lansing to take on Michigan on Feb. 27-28.

Illinois will then play Nebraska at home on March 5-6 and proceed to travel to compete with Minnesota on March 12-13. The Illini will then kick off a two-week homestand, facing Maryland on March 19-20 and Indiana on March 26-27. Illinois’ regular season will conclude on the road against Purdue on April 2-3.

Selections for the NCAA tournament will be announced on April 4, with there being a 48-team bracket as opposed to the usual 64. Teams will play through the month of April, with a championship being played in Omaha on April 22 and 24.

All home games will be played at Huff Hall, but unfortunately, no fans will be allowed inside this season due to COVID-19 concerns. This may reduce some of the home advantages Illinois generates from its crowd, but it can regain the lost advantage on the road as opponents will likely face similar limitations on crowds at games.

With the lack of non-conference opponents, Illinois will face its smallest schedule in years. In a season with fewer games, all of which being in-conference, the Illini will need to play with urgency from the start of the season if they hope to be a contender for the national championship.

Playing in the format of mostly two-game series is unprecedented in college volleyball, so there may be a bit of an adjustment in terms of coaching these games. While Illinois has played plenty of games on consecutive days, they have never done it at as high of a frequency as they will now. With limited practice hours in the offseason due to NCAA rules and a potential key player in Ellie Holzman coming off an injury, head coach Chris Tamas may need to pay closer attention to his players’ conditioning and health this season.

A schedule consisting of mostly short series isn’t unprecedented in other sports, however, as the MLB schedule consists primarily of series, and the NBA has pivoted towards including two-game series this season to help reduce travel and COVID-19 spreading possibilities.

Many players have expressed their anticipation for the schedule’s announcement and ensuing season. Come Jan. 22, we’ll get to see if their play can live up to the standard of excellence Illinois has set over the past few seasons.

@WesHollenberg

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