Illinois volleyball adds four fresh faces to roster ahead of Fall 2022 season


Photo courtesy of Andy Wenstrand/Illinois Athletics

Freshman setter Brooke Mosher high fives senior middle blocker Kennedy Collins during the scrimmage against Brøndby Volleyball Klub on March 9. The team will be adding four new faces: outside hitter Sophie Stevenson, outside hitter Kayla Burbage, middle blocker Cari Bohm and setter Bianca May.

By Drew Friberg, Sports Editor

This offseason, head coach Chris Tamas has bolstered his roster with three freshmen signees and one sophomore transfer with the hopes of improving on last season’s seventh place finish in the Big Ten.

Filling the hole left by Megan Cooney’s departure last fall is freshman outside hitter Sophie Stevenson and sophomore transfer outside hitter Kayla Burbage (formerly of Mizzou).

Stevenson hails from Seattle, Wash., and attended Washington Volleyball Academy and The Bush School before committing to Illinois. During her time at The Bush School, Stevenson was a four-year varsity starter and helped her team earn second place in the Emerald Sound Conference in her freshman year. 

At WVBA, she helped her team place top 30 at AAU Nationals as a junior. She has been honored for her self-motivation and drive during her time in high school, which will help her acclimate quickly to the competitive nature of Big Ten volleyball.

Burbage, originally from Clayton, N.C., already has a collegiate year under her belt after playing the 2021 season at Mizzou. Burbage’s freshman year was a great success, as she started in 24 of 28 matches for Mizzou and played 99 sets total for the Tigers. Additionally, she had a team-high 87 blocks in her freshman season. 

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The 6-feet 4-inch outside hitter told Illini Athletics that she chose to continue her career at Illinois because of “the grit” the program has. The culture Tamas has instilled into the program just from his five-year tenure has already started to pay off in recruiting.

Next of Tamas’ 2022 recruits is freshman middle blocker Cari Bohm from Ann Arbor, Mich. Bohm’s junior years were highly successful, as she earned a bronze medal with Legacy Volleyball Club at the 2018 AAU Nationals and participated at multiple USA Volleyball High Performance training sessions in 2019 and 2020. 

A recent Illini from LVC was 2018 grad and All-American middle blocker Ali Bastianelli, who has gone on to play professionally and garner first team All Big Ten honors twice in her time with the Illini. The LVC to Illinois pipeline is likely to produce another gem for Illinois in Cari Bohm.

Lastly, Tamas’ final signing ahead of the 2022 season is Illinois local Bianca May, who is a freshman setter looking to fill the gap left by last year’s senior setter Kylie Bruder. May, who hails from Orland Park, Ill., won a 4A sectional championship her sophomore year with Carl Sandburg High School, posting 374 assists and 163 digs along the way. With her club, Adversity VBC, May won bronze at USAV Junior National Championships Open.

After four full years at the helm, Tamas’ team is now fully his. The departure of last year’s seniors marked the first recruits that Tamas coached the whole way through their time at Illinois, and this batch of 2022 recruits is just the second time he gets to refresh a roster that he has built himself.

With the national prowess shown at the junior level by the three freshmen and the collegiate experience of Burbage, this batch of recruits will be instrumental in improving on last year’s Sweet 16 exit and seventh place Big Ten finish.



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