Illinois volleyball’s Quade is competitive and care-free

Illinois%27+Jacqueline+Quade+gets+ready+to+hit+the+ball+during+the+match+against+Northwestern+at+Huff+Hall+on+Saturday%2C+October+15.+The+Illini+won+3-0.
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Illinois volleyball’s Quade is competitive and care-free

Illinois' Jacqueline Quade gets ready to hit the ball during the match against Northwestern at Huff Hall on Saturday, October 15. The Illini won 3-0.

Illinois' Jacqueline Quade gets ready to hit the ball during the match against Northwestern at Huff Hall on Saturday, October 15. The Illini won 3-0.

Austin Yattoni

Illinois' Jacqueline Quade gets ready to hit the ball during the match against Northwestern at Huff Hall on Saturday, October 15. The Illini won 3-0.

Austin Yattoni

Austin Yattoni

Illinois' Jacqueline Quade gets ready to hit the ball during the match against Northwestern at Huff Hall on Saturday, October 15. The Illini won 3-0.

By James Boyd, Staff Writer

On Tuesdays, the Illinois volleyball team begins practice at 4 P.M. at Huff Hall.

This week, a half-hour before, freshman Jacqueline Quade sits on the floor sporting a blue Nike Illini shirt and blue spandex. Her hair is a little frizzy and goes straight back into one big braid. In front of her are white low top Nikes and white ankle braces.

She puts on the final pieces of her practice gear and sings along to Kanye West’s “Mercy.” Illinois’ outside hitter looks loose and relaxed.

Her stress-free demeanor is something head coach Kevin Hambly has become accustomed to.

“She feels pressure certainly, but I think she’s able to get rid of that and drop that pressure faster than normal players,” Hambly said. “She’s just kind of wired that way too. She’s just a happy-go-lucky kid. So I think that helps. But that’s not to say she’s not really competitive because that she is.”

Quade’s competitive fire was not something she had to find upon arriving at Illinois. It came alive back home in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

During her elementary school days, Quade said she played a multitude of sports including: soccer, basketball, swimming, golf, tennis and volleyball. The youngster was always busy with practices and games, but when she enrolled at Maple Creek Middle School she decided to let a lot of them go.

“After my sixth grade year I kind of just cut it down to basketball and volleyball,” Quade said. “I still played basketball through my junior year (of high school), but I really liked focusing on volleyball and trying to be on better club teams. I just played basketball for fun and volleyball was kind of my main focus after eighth grade.”

Putting the majority of her time toward volleyball paid off for Quade. At Carroll High School she was named the Co-MVP as a sophomore and junior, and upon graduating she was the all-time kills leader with 1,462. She also holds the school record for most kills in a season after tallying 475 during her senior year.

Her record-setting performances earned looks from a slew of Division I schools offering her scholarships, but when it came time to decide where she wanted to continue her career Quade didn’t show much loyalty to her hometown teams.

“My whole high school goes to IU (Indiana university) or Purdue basically, and like Ball State,” Quade said. “But I just wanted to branch out a little bit and meet new people, so I never really looked at any in-state schools very much just for that reason.”

Quade said she chose to continue her budding career in Champaign because of the culture. On her initial visit she said Illinois never tried to sell her on materialistic things, but rather the people and support system they could offer her.

Since committing, Quade has been an impact player from day one.

The Illini are 13-6 so far this season and are 6-2 in the Big Ten. In Quade’s first career match she recorded a team-high 15 kills and .571 hitting percentage against Arkansas. In her first Big Ten outing, she helped Illinois defeat Purdue in a five-set thriller with 13 kills and two digs.

Early on Quade played all six rotations, including the backrow. The freshman said she never really played backrow on her club team and in high school so it was a lot to take in. Since then, Hambly has dialed back her workload.

“We tried to see how much she could handle,” Hambly said. “I think she could’ve handled playing six rotations, but she wasn’t ready strength wise. She could handle it emotionally and mentally, but from a strength standpoint I don’t think she was ready to play that much.”

Hambly said that freshmen in general are often wildcards and that he doesn’t know what to expect from them until he sees them play. He also added that freshmen simply aren’t used to playing as much they do when they play in a conference as tough as the Big Ten.

Quade has already been honored as the Big Ten Freshman of the Week and as of right now she leads the Illini in total points with 233.5.

Illinois’ head coach said that the 6-foot-2 outside hitter will continue to be a focal point in the Illini offense as they make their way through the rest of their conference schedule, and look to make a deep run into the NCAA tournament.

But for now, Hambly is pleased whenever he sees Quade spreading her infectious, care-free personality.

“She’s been a huge part of our season thus far,” Hambly said. “We need to keep her healthy and keep her going. She’s just kind of this happy ‘Everything’s going to fine’ (person). That’s just how she is. It’s kind of fun to be around her actually.”

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