CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — “It’s been great this year to like see that attendance levels have reached the max and everything,” Abby Boland said.

Abby Boland has grown up watching Illini women’s basketball games. For Boland and other girls following the team their admiration goes beyond the sport itself.

“Been a blessing to get to know them, just really seeing who they are beyond the court, just having them to look up too and to see their energy on the court has been really cool,” Boland said.

“When you see them, you think you can’t do it but when you see them you see them, like they did it, you can too,” Kaitlin Whitehouse said.

Boland picked up the basketball when she was five. She says the camaraderie at the next level inspires her.

“So it’s really cool just to see the older people, especially when I was younger, to see the older level really work together and connected together,” Boland said.

The high schooler says the fighting Illini players work on making connections with the people watching them and it makes a difference.

“Just talk to us in a positive way that gets us motivated for even our season, but also excited about theirs and getting people out to watch their games, really just making a true connection to us,” Boland said.

Kinly Lehman just enjoys the work they put in on the court.

“They are very successful I think and they inspire me a lot like how they just go out there and do what they’re doing,” Lehman said.

Boland says watching what they’re doing and having the Illini in town has helped her navigate life.

“Not only keep me busy but just to get me through different things in life and have that motivation to keep pushing, it’s like an outlet for me more than anything,” Boland said.

Some fans like Ella Ulitlzsch says watching these players could motivate the next generation of female athletes.

“If you actually, like if you could watch this, then it can like admire you to get up and do sports,” Ulitlzsch said.