With one season left to go, Illinois’ four seniors are some of the most familiar names for Illini fans, and some of the most important players on the court. All four played regularly for Illinois in last year’s Final Four campaign, and they’ll be critical to the success of this coming year’s team.
Welsh played in all but one set for the Illini last year, tallying 247 digs as a defensive specialist, along with 21 aces. Welsh’s presence in the back row further helps strengthen Illinois’s stellar defense, and I’d fully expect to see her continue to excel in that role next season.
In 119 sets for Illinois, Prince picked up 310 kills as a redshirt-junior. Prince came through with numerous clutch performances last year, reaching double digit kills in a comeback match against Indiana early in Big Ten play, as well as in the road games against Nebraska and Wisconsin which helped get the Illini rolling through the latter half of Big Ten play and into the NCAA Tournament.
The heart of the Illini offense last year, Quade had 560 kills on a .265 hitting percentage, along with 63 blocks as a junior. Quade’s performance was highlighted nationally as she picked up All-American honors, among other numerous accolades. Undoubtedly, Quade will continue to be huge for Illinois in her senior season, and I’d expect to see a lot of the Illini offense run through her once again.
Fleming came to the Illini as a transfer last season from the University of the Pacific, but made her presence immediately known. Her presence on the net was intimidating as she picked up 130 blocks on the season, but Fleming was also an incredibly efficient offensive threat for the Illini, picking up 210 kills on a .429 hitting percentage. Fleming was a crucial part of last year’s Illini team, and definitely will be again this year.
All four of Illinois’ seniors played regularly for the Illini during last year’s incredible season, and they’re back for one more year! To have so much depth returning after a Final Four appearance is huge for the Illini, and my expectations are high for the upcoming season.
These seniors will be leading the way as they look to close out their collegiate careers on a high note, and coming off two seasons which already ended quite well, I’m really excited to see what this final campaign brings. Hopefully, they can close it out with the highest of notes with a National Championship. And with the team that the Illini are bringing to the court next year, I can believe it.
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