Illinois volleyball squares off against powerhouse programs No. 5 Purdue, No. 8 Wisconsin


Sydney Laput

Illinois volleyball head coach Chris Tamas huddles and speaks with the team during an intermission for the game against Maryland on Sept. 23. The Illini will be up against the Boilermakers at Huff Hall on Friday.

By Drew Friberg, Sports Editor

With the first weekend of Big Ten play done, Illinois now enters matches against two top-10 opponents, welcoming No. 5 Purdue to Huff Hall Friday and traveling to No. 8 defending national champions Wisconsin on Sunday.

An incredible opening weekend by Illinois saw it take down two formidable opponents in Maryland and Northwestern. Junior outside hitter Raina Terry was the star of the show, with 34 kills on the weekend. But Illinois’ weekend was characterized most by the inclusion of redshirt freshman setter Brooke Mosher.

Senior outside hitter Jessica Nunge, who has been a huge part of Illinois’ attack this season, went down injured in practice last Friday and was unable to play. Mosher stepped into a hitting role in her first-ever Big Ten match and managed 14 kills. Her ability to step in as needed characterized Illinois’ resilience and showed exactly the type of performance needed from players old and new this weekend.

“We threw her out there and she just made smart plays,” head coach Chris Tamas said. “She didn’t try and over-play her position, she didn’t make bad swings, she just made the other team play a lot, and she got a lot of kills out of it.”

While Illinois is coming off a successful opening weekend, Purdue’s opening weekend was nothing short of perfection. The Boilermakers took down the No. 8 Minnesota Golden Gophers in four sets behind a 21-kill performance from freshman outside hitter Eva Hudson, who went on to be Big Ten’s volleyball player of the week after also defeating Iowa on the weekend.

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The 2-0 start saw Purdue jump six rankings, as it now sits as the highest ranked Big Ten team in the nation, leapfrogging Wisconsin, Ohio State and Minnesota. The Boilermakers will be the Illini’s hottest opponent of the season. The main key to victory for the Illini is limiting Hudson’s touches on the ball and making it hard for graduate student setter Grace Balensiefer to find her. 

Sunday’s match against Wisconsin will be another huge road test for Illinois. With the Badgers faltering in their opening weekend, losing 3-0 to Minnesota, and hosting No. 9 Penn State on Friday, the Illini have a chance to make real waves in Big Ten and national rankings.

Redshirt sophomore outside hitter Sarah Franklin has been one of the Badgers’ main scoring threats this year, after losing four-time All-American middle blocker Dana Rettke from last year’s national championship-winning team. Sophomore outside hitter Julia Orzol has also been a part of the Badgers’ success.

Despite the challenge of two top-10 opponents looming over Illinois this weekend, Mosher is ready to enjoy her freedom as an outside hitter again, and wants to prove Illinois can hang with the best.

“I’m really excited for (the matches),” Mosher said. “Purdue and Wisconsin are really powerhouses right now, and I think we’re up there with them.”

Illinois’ second weekend of Big Ten play begins Friday night at 7 p.m. as the team welcomes No. 5 Purdue to Huff Hall, before traveling on Sunday to play No. 8 Wisconsin at 1 p.m. in Madison.



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