The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Illinois volleyball gets set for spring season

Olivia McAfoos
Senior outside hitter Raina Terry hits the ball cross court against Indiana on Oct. 25. Terry tallies 539 kills with 4.69 per set as well as strikes 36 aces.

Coming off of their seventh season led by head coach Chris Tamas, the Illini prepare for their spring season and pursue an NCAA tournament appearance next fall.

In all but one of his years with the Illini, Tamas has finished with a .500 record or better and made four trips to the NCAA tournament. The team’s best season under his leadership was 2018 when they started 14-0 and reached the tournament semifinals before falling to Nebraska.

Tamas and the Illini handled opponents well in Huff Hall, dropping only three home matches and picking up 10 wins along the way. Overall, Illinois recorded a record of 16 wins and 14 losses. With a 7-10 record midway through the season, the Illini found a groove and hit a six-game win streak to triumph in nine of their last 13 matches.

“We got our players back healthy, we got to a point where we felt more comfortable playing next to each other, and it’s just about committing for each other every single play,” Tamas said. “Everyone has got to step up and make plays, and I thought we did a tremendous job of making the plays we had to make to help us win.”

Veteran senior outside hitter Raina Terry continued to lead offensively for the Illini in 2023, tallying 539 kills with 4.69 per set as well as striking 36 aces. Graduate middle blocker Kennedy Collins and junior outside hitter Kayla Burbage added over 200 kills each, with the Illini hitting .203 overall last season.

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Sophomore Brooke Mosher comfortably stepped into the setter position and ran the offense well, assisting for 1,060 kills and hitting 77 of her own. Mosher also received the ball confidently, recording 295 digs.

Outstanding defensive performances belong to Collins, junior libero Caroline Barnes and redshirt freshman middle blocker Cari Bohm. Barnes smothered the court, digging 331 balls with 3.34 per set. Bohm and Collins put a roof over opponents to score 129 and 121 blocks.

The Illini strike with precision from the service line, averaging 1.53 aces per set ranking fourth in the Big Ten. Mosher switched from a floater approach to a high-velocity top-spin serve that caused chaos for defenses, landing 38 aces. Terry was also dangerous from the serving line hitting 36 aces last season.

“I think once we started committing a little bit more our serving prowess came back, and we have always been known as a tough serving team,” Tamas said.

Spring play allows teams to experiment with new tactics and rebuild for the fall season. While the majority of Illinois’ lineup will return, a few notable veterans including Collins and graduate defensive specialist Vanessa Pan will be retiring from the Illini. Collins started all five years spent with Illinois, providing strong leadership and consistency at the net. Freshman middle blocker Gabby Dean took a redshirt last season and will step into the open middle position.

Tamas and his staff made huge strides in the recruiting front, adding two top-class 2024 prospects out of North Carolina. They will also add another middle blocker in Ashlyn Philpot, who was nationally ranked No. 44 in her class. Outside hitter Laynie Smith will also join the Illini next season and was named to the top 125 for the class of 2024.

“It’s not just about that season, it’s the progression built from one to the next,” Tamas said. “We have a lot of returners coming back, we’re happy to have the recruits that we have, and I think it’s gonna be a good year next year.”

Illinois volleyball fans can look forward to a string of spring exhibition games, which typically occur in March.


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