Illinois volleyball celebrates seniors with final home matches of the season

The+Illinois+volleyball+team+cheer+on+the+court+during+their+match+up+against+Minnesota+on+Nov.+6.+

Sydney Laput

The Illinois volleyball team cheer on the court during their match up against Minnesota on Nov. 6.

By Drew Friberg and Adam Rosen

Back at .500 and with four games to go, Illinois volleyball’s season is coming down to the wire. A team that started ranked in the top-25 has faced adversity several times during the season, leading to a turbulent series of results. This weekend, Illinois continues its quest for postseason play with the team’s final two home matches against Michigan State and University of Iowa.

Last time out, Illinois performed well, holding off a Michigan team that received votes in last week’s American Volleyball Coaches Association coaches poll while sweeping Michigan State in its first bout with the Spartans this season. Senior middle blocker Rylee Hinton tallied 14 blocks total, averaging two blocks per set, while junior outside hitter Raina Terry continued her campaign with 29 kills over seven sets.

After a couple of seasons on and off the court with injury, Hinton has started to come into her own at the perfect time for the Illinois frontline. Feeling like a new version of herself, Hinton claims to have managed to touch 10’6 in her most recent vertical jump session.

“I feel like I’m jumping super well,” Hinton said. “Usually, with a knee injury, you don’t jump that well. So, that was always kind of a discouraging thing about my injury, but I feel so much better this season. I’ve been having PR’s in the weight room with what I’m touching and I’ve can feel myself hanging in the air for longer than I have in a long time.”

After just a week off, the Illini take on the Spartans again. With almost no change from last week except the location of the match, the game plan remains the same for Illinois. While the Spartans may look to adapt to what the Illini threw at them last week, Illinois may face a bit of pushback early on.

On Sunday however, the Hawkeyes will pose a new test to this Illini team, as they have yet to play this season. While Illinois is projected to win, Iowa is no slouch. Despite the 19-8 record, the Hawkeyes have pushed No. 14 Penn State and No. 5 Purdue to five sets, behind performances from senior libero Mari Hinkle.

Additionally on Sunday, some Illini’s careers will be celebrated for the final time in front of home fans. Hinton, senior middle blockers Kennedy Collins and Kyla Swanson, senior outside hitter Jessica Nunge and redshirt senior setter Diana Brown will all play their final home match representing Illinois.

“It’s kind of surreal,” Collins said. “Being here so long, it went by so fast. It being our last few weeks is kind of sad for me.”

Starting Friday, Illinois begins its final homestand of the season, welcoming Michigan State at 7 p.m. before Sunday’s senior celebration against Iowa at 1 p.m.

 

@DrewFriberg9

[email protected]