Volleyball faces midweek match against Michigan

With just three days of rest after defeating Penn State on Saturday, the No. 1 Illinois volleyball team is back in action for its first of two Wednesday matches this season.

Only having two days of practice this week to prepare for the Michigan Wolverines (14-4, 2-4 Big Ten), the Illini (17-0, 6-0) changed up their practice schedule to properly scout for the Big Ten match.

“(Monday) we went after it, it was a hard day,” head coach Kevin Hambly said. “(Tuesday) we’ll go out, we’ll treat it as a scouting day, like a Thursday or a Friday match. We took out our off day a little bit.”

Hambly said playing on the weekend and on Wednesday both have their advantages. One of Wednesday’s biggest draws is a live airing on the Big Ten Network.

“I like both for different reasons. … I like the idea that we can go Wednesday, and then ask someone to come back on Saturday, and have some days in between and easier for people to repeat that,” Hambly said. “I like that we’re on TV a lot.”

He said the weekend matches, though, are more tournament-like and better prepare for tournament preparation of play.

He is also interested to see how his team handles being a Wednesday night team. Illinois competed against Purdue and Penn State on Saturday nights, when both of those teams played the Wednesday before.

“We’ll see which is harder, it’ll be interesting to be on the other side of it,” Hambly said. “You feel like it’s a huge advantage to not have to play two nights in a row. We’ll find out.”

The match also gives hope to a good crowd, and so far it’s looking that way, with reserved seating already sold out.

“Hopefully we’ll have a big crowd this Wednesday, because usually Wednesday we don’t have the biggest crowd but I know a lot of people want to come to support us,” senior Rachel Feldman said.

Redshirt freshman Anna Dorn also said she hopes there is a big crowd, referencing the support against Purdue match in Illinois’ last home match.

Fans who see Wednesday’s game will witness a No. 20 ranked in Michigan that has lost its last four matches, three against top-25 teams.

“They’re really tough, they’re just a tough team,” Hambly said. “They compete as hard as anyone we’re gonna play. They have great ball control and great serving, they’re like a Big Ten team, they’re going to be really good.”

Whoever they play, the Illini are making sure they stay focused and fresh for the midweek match. Dorn said she thinks it will be a fun test for the team.

“We’re always tired to be honest, the Big Ten is long and grueling and we’re not even half way through so far,” Dorn said. “(Wednesday) is different but it’s a good change of pace. I think it will be a good challenge for us.”