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Illinois volleyball begins season with Illini Classic

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Illinois volleyball begins season with Illini Classic

Illinois' Jordan Poulter celebrates after a kill during the match against Wisconsin at Huff Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015. Illinois lost 3-2.

Illinois' Jordan Poulter celebrates after a kill during the match against Wisconsin at Huff Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015. Illinois lost 3-2.

Austin Yattoni | The Daily Illin

Illinois' Jordan Poulter celebrates after a kill during the match against Wisconsin at Huff Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015. Illinois lost 3-2.

Austin Yattoni | The Daily Illin

Austin Yattoni | The Daily Illin

Illinois' Jordan Poulter celebrates after a kill during the match against Wisconsin at Huff Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015. Illinois lost 3-2.

By James Boyd, Staff Writer

This weekend, all of the Illinois volleyball team’s preparation for this upcoming season will come to fruition during the Illini Classic at Huff Hall.
Illinois will play Arkansas to begin non-conference play Friday, before facing Xavier and Missouri State in a doubleheader the following day.

Despite the quick turnaround, head coach Kevin Hambly doesn’t think that it will have a negative impact on his team.

“No match is as hard as any of our practices,” Hambly said. “We work way harder, in every single practice, every single day, than we would ever do in a match. I think we’re prepared physically to handle that. The girls are used to playing five matches in a day with club (volleyball).”

Hambly admitted that the physicality of collegiate volleyball is a lot more taxing than high school or club volleyball. But with several hours between Saturday’s matchups, Hambly said that his staff will make sure each player is taken care of.

The start of the 2016 season also serves as a milestone moment for many of the Illini.

Freshman Jacqueline Quade will record her first career stats in front of Illinois’ home crowd.

The only other time she’s played competitively at Huff Hall was less than one week ago at the annual Orange and Blue scrimmage.

Hambly said the 6-foot-2 outside hitter had a few early miscues, but she still managed to lead the Illini with 21 kills on the evening.

“It’s a lot different to play in front of a crowd,” Quade said. “High school volleyball isn’t as big as volleyball is here, so it was kind of hard to get adjusted to at the beginning. (It felt) like everyone was watching. But it was really fun to get to play an actual competitive match.”

Quade’s family will be driving four hours from Fort Wayne, Indiana, to watch the highly recruited freshman make her collegiate debut.

On the other end of the spectrum there is opposite hitter Naya Crittenden.
After spending her first two seasons in Eugene, Oregon, competing as a Duck, Crittenden will begin her final collegiate campaign.

“I always joke with Kevin like ‘I wish I would’ve been here since freshman year,’” Crittenden said. “It hasn’t set in yet that I’m a senior. But it’s slowly coming on, because every practice to me matters. Everything that we do as a team matters. I can’t even wait to start traveling, because those bus trips and stuff, you’re not going to get that again.”

Crittenden said that she worked on her mechanics diligently all summer to become a more consistent hitter. She highlighted the fact that it would help her team, but also said it may help her transition into a professional career.

The California native made it clear that despite looking ahead to her future playing days, she still wants to make some big things happen with this team, this year.

“We kind of have a joke, ‘Bring the swag,’” Crittenden said. “That’s something that I like to do on the court. I think that’s so important. For teams that are really really successful, it’s having that energy all the time. Teams don’t win by being scared.”

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