Illinois volleyball aims to get back on track against Indiana on Friday night

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Ryan Ash

Setter Diana Brown prepares to serve the ball during a set against Purdue on Oct. 6. The Illini hope for a victorious comeback against Indiana on Friday.

By Jackson Janes, Sports Editor

No. 25 Illinois welcomes Indiana to Huff Hall for the third of four matches in its home stand at Huff Hall. After losing to both then-No. 9 Nebraska and then-No. 11 Minnesota in straight sets last week, the Illini look to get back on track against the Hoosiers on Friday night.

The Illini struggled last week, failing to win a set across the two nights, though redshirt junior Diana Brown says it’s hard to pinpoint one specific area of concern after the two-match skid.

“You can’t just look at one thing or one person and say, like, ‘This is the problem,’” Brown said. “I think that it’s not necessarily our physical skill; our mental skill is kinda where we have been talking about that needs improvement.”

Indiana will head to Champaign with a 9-17 overall record, while it sits at 3-11 in conference play with wins over Michigan State and Rutgers (twice). The Hoosiers are on a four-match losing streak, with their last win coming on Oct. 24 against the Scarlet Knights.

Head coach Chris Tamas acknowledges that Indiana may not be ranked, though he knows they will pose a challenge, just like any other team in the Big Ten.

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    “I don’t care if they’re ranked or unranked; they’re gonna be a tough opponent, and they’re gonna throw their challenges at you that you need to be able to still get out there and execute,” Tamas said. “There’s no team that we can just roll the ball over the net and score points; everyone’s gonna be good.”

    The Hoosiers are led on offense by senior outside hitter Breana Edwards and freshman outside hitter Mady Saris, who have registered 320 and 240 kills, respectively, while junior middle blocker Kaley Rammelsberg has 177 kills, the third-highest total on the team and the ninth-best hitting percentage in the conference at .346 through 90 sets this season.

    On the defensive end, junior defensive specialist Paula Cerame leads the team in digs (409) while also notching the most in the conference and the sixth-highest digs per set (4.26). Sophomore middle blocker Savannah Kjolhede and Rammelsberg lead the team in total blocks with 74 and 68, respectively.

    Though the Illini struggled last weekend against the Cornhuskers and Golden Gophers, sophomore Raina Terry and junior middle blocker Kennedy Collins put together respectable weekend campaigns, with Terry recording 12 kills on Thursday against Nebraska and Collins notching 10 kills, two blocks and six digs on Saturday against Minnesota.

    Brown has been a big asset for Illinois this season, and her teammates routinely credit her for their big performances. After recording 62 assists across the two matches, Brown trusts the team will get back on track this weekend.

    “I think now it’s almost like a mental thing in our head where it’s like another hurdle to overcome,” Brown said. “But the thing about playing in the Big Ten is we get another chance this weekend.”

     

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