CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Though much of the Illinois student body has left for Thanksgiving break, 2,914 of Illinois Volleyball’s most passionate showed up at Huff Hall on Saturday for Senior Night. Friends and family of the Illinois seniors were a part of the crowd present.
While fans welcomed the loved ones of Illinois seniors, they also welcomed Michigan Wolverines head coach Erin Virtue, an alum of Illinois Volleyball, having played for the Illini from 2001-2004.
“Everyone’s doing their job. We’re having fun. We played for our seniors tonight,” middle blocker Cari Bohm said.
In front of a bumper crowd, the Fighting Illini made quick work of the Wolverines, winning 3-0 (25-13, 25-19, 25-19).
HOW IT HAPPENED
There are no easy games in the Big Ten Conference, but Illinois made it look easy on Saturday.
Illinois’ serve-and-receive game was on point. Chris Tamas’ team continued its high-risk, high-reward approach to serving, earning seven aces but also having 13 service errors.
Great passing from the back row to setter Brooke Mosher was part of the reason for Illinois’ success. They had 34 digs to Michigan’s 29.
While the Wolverines would win a few long, hard-fought rallies, they couldn’t stay hot enough to put a significant run together. Their longest run was 4 straight points, which came in the first set.
Michigan never looked comfortable. Illinois never looked uncomfortable, staying in control at all times and playing well out of timeouts. The Wolverines would only ever lead twice in the match, and would never lead in the third set.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Don’t blink. You might miss it. Brooke Mosher to Cari Bohm.
What a point for the seniors. Raina Terry’s serve from the baseline. Jessica Nunge and Kennedy Collins on the block. Vanessa Pan from deep.
Just how we drew it up. Kayla Burbage’s one assist on the day came from the bench.
I’M BACK. Raina Terry is coming back to Illinois for her fifth year, and she announced it at the end of Saturday’s Senior Night festivities.
SENIOR SPOTLIGHT/SOUND SMART
“Their consistency and how they show up and how they come out and give their best,” Tamas said of this senior group’s importance to the team in recent weeks. “It really means a lot to me.”
Raina Terry: On Saturday, Raina Terry had an efficient night, getting 17 kills while hitting at .400 (17 kills-3 errors-35 attempts). She also had 3 service aces, a statistic in which she ranks fourth all-time. She also became just the 16th person in program history to surpass 500 kills in one season. Good night for her, on top of the fact that she announced she’ll be coming back next year.
Kennedy Collins: The graduate middle blocker is the longest-tenured player at Illinois, with this season being her fifth. She had a quiet but efficient night attacking the ball with three kills on six attempts, but once again a rock in defense, recording three blocks.
Jessica Nunge: Nunge did a little bit of everything today. She had eight kills, three digs, a pair of service aces and a block. Her influence can’t be seen through a box score, though. She’s the hypeman of the team, always the loudest one on the court after the Illini earn a hard-fought point.
Vanessa Pan: The defensive specialist did an excellent job of keeping the ball off of Illinois’ side of the floor. Even though her box score only has three digs, it was her passing, along with that of back-row teammate Caroline Barnes, that helped Mosher to 32 assists.
Huff Hall hosted its last Illinois Volleyball match of the year on Saturday. A high enough ranking would mean home-court advantage in the tournament, and while Huff won’t be seeing postseason action, postseason hopes are still alive for the Illini.
Chris Tamas’ team is 9-2 since starting the season 7-10, a run that’s included quality wins over the likes of Purdue, Indiana and Ohio State. All three of those teams are placed higher than Illinois in the NCAA RPI Rankings.
Tamas’ approach on a postseason berth has been for the team to win the matches in front of them, and “make it tough on the committee.”
A win next Friday in Minneapolis against the Minnesota Golden Gophers (Receiving Votes in the AVCA poll) would make the selection committee’s job a bit tougher.
First serve in Minneapolis is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., and the match can be streamed on Big Ten Plus.