Illinois volleyball looks for second win of day over Homecoming foe No. 10 Minnesota


Sydney Laput

Junior outside hitter Raina Terry smacks the ball over the hit as Rutgers attempts to block it during the first set on Wednesday.

By Drew Friberg, Sports Editor

After a midweek sweep over Rutgers on Wednesday, Illinois volleyball treks up north to take on No. 10 Minnesota on Saturday as it looks for its first ranked win this season.

In six ranked matches so far this season, Illinois has pushed the opposition to a fifth set three times, against No. 8 Wisconsin, No. 19 Marquette and even having a match point against No. 5 Purdue, before dropping the fifth set 14-16.

Despite the heartbreaking track record so far this season against top opponents, the players are still ready for Saturday’s test. Playing against the Golden Gophers each season has helped, as now the Illini know what to expect from the home crowd.

“I’m pumped, it’s going to be a great matchup,” junior outside hitter Raina Terry said. “I love playing against Minnesota. I love their gym, I love their atmosphere. It’s going to be a great challenge being the away team.”

Against similar opponents this season, Minnesota has faltered in odd spots. While the Golden Gophers managed to sweep the No. 6 Badgers at home, just two days later, they were beaten by the unranked Northwestern Wildcats in five sets. Illinois took down Northwestern in a sweep earlier this season but lost to Wisconsin in five sets just two weeks ago.

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Junior setter Melani Shaffmaster has been a standout for the Golden Gophers this season so far, posting a double-double in Minnesota’s midweek sweep loss to No. 6 Ohio State. Not allowing Minnesota easy balls on defense will be instrumental to Illinois’ success, and has been the team’s downfall against ranked opposition this season.

In set five against the Badgers, the Illini posted eight hitting errors leading to Badger points, handing them the win. Additionally, against Purdue, Illinois posted eight service errors in the first two sets, which it lost. If players like senior middle blocker Rylee Hinton and sophomore opposite Kayla Burbage can post hitting performances like Wednesday night against Rutgers (each hitting over .450%), Shaffmaster won’t be able to succeed as greatly as usual.

This is the game head coach Chris Tamas wants his team to play normally, even taking a timeout to drill that into his team mid-set on Wednesday night.

“I just said I didn’t want them to back down,” Tamas said. “Obviously you’ve got to be smart, but you’ve got to go for the kill… not just hope they mess up.”

Action in Minneapolis begins at 3 p.m. Saturday as the Illini try for their first ranked win over the Golden Gophers. 



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