The Daily Illini

Illinois volleyball looks to rebound against Michigan, Michigan St.

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Illinois volleyball looks to rebound against Michigan, Michigan St.

Illinois' Ali Bastianelli hits the ball during the match against Northwestern at Huff Hall on Saturday, October 15. The Illini won 3-0.

Illinois' Ali Bastianelli hits the ball during the match against Northwestern at Huff Hall on Saturday, October 15. The Illini won 3-0.

Austin Yattoni

Illinois' Ali Bastianelli hits the ball during the match against Northwestern at Huff Hall on Saturday, October 15. The Illini won 3-0.

Austin Yattoni

Austin Yattoni

Illinois' Ali Bastianelli hits the ball during the match against Northwestern at Huff Hall on Saturday, October 15. The Illini won 3-0.

By Jacob Diaz, Staff writer

Just across the St. Clair river from Sarnia, Ontario, Canada sits Marysville, Michigan. It’s a city of just under 10,000 people and the home of Illinois volleyball’s Ali Bastianelli.

The middle blocker is a graduate of Marysville High School, where she was a captain and MVP of a storied volleyball team. The Marysville Vikings have won nine state championships, including eight straight from 1997-2004. During that time, the team won 192 consecutive matches.

While Bastianelli never claimed a state title of her own, suffice it to say that she comes from a winning tradition.

Coming out of high school, Batianelli was the No. 10 recruit in the nation according to prepvolleyball.com, and schools across the country tried to recruit her, including the two Big Ten schools closest to her, Michigan and Michigan State.

She said she looked at both but ultimately wanted something different.

“When it came down to it, I’ve always had this dream of going out of state,”Bastianelli said. “Honestly, when it came down to it, it was just about the culture of the program (at Illinois) that sold me in coming here.”

Head coach Kevin Hambly and the rest of the Illini will be glad to have the national leader in blocks per set on their side of the court and not their opponent’s when they match up against both programs this weekend.

Illinois starts its road trip Friday night in Ann Arbor, – the closer school to Marysville – taking on Michigan.

Like Illinois, Michigan are in a bit of a slump. After starting conference play 7-3 and beating No. 9 Penn St., the Wolverines have lost two straight matches, and will be looking to right the ship this weekend.

The Illini enter the match with a three-match skid of their own, but Bastianelli and her teammates are trying to put that in the past.

“We can’t fix what happened in the past; we can’t go back and try again at those games,” Bastianelli said. “That was a really big part of our culture this year that Kevin (Hambly) mentioned and that we’ve all bought in to is just be in the next moment. Whatever happened the play before is done with. All you can do is make the next one better.”

Illinois will then take a short trip to East Lansing to take on the Michigan State for the second time this season.

The Illini played arguably their best match of the season Oct. 12, when they swept the Spartans aside in straight sets at Huff Hall.

Hambly knows that this match will likely be more difficult than the last.

“We had a really good gameplan against them,” Hambly said. “But they made a lot of errors when they were (in Champaign), they gave us a lot of points, and I think they’ll be a lot better at home. They’re gonna come out angry. They’ve also made some changes to their lineup, so we aren’t looking at them like the same team.”

Bastianelli was pleased with her team’s performance in all aspects of the game the last time they clashed with the Spartans. She hopes that the Illini will be able to take some of what made them so successful a month ago and apply it again Saturday.

“I think that game was the best game that we played mentally,” Bastianelli said. “We were very much so engaged, we were very prepared, we executed at a very high level against a very good team.”

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@Jacob_Diaz31

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