CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — After finishing the regular season with a 16-13 record, Illinois volleyball was on the edge of their seats, awaiting the NCAA’s selection for the teams advancing to the postseason tournament. They skidded by with an at large bid, a chance the Illini were hoping for, but even more so for outside hitter Beth Prince.
“I’ve said it million times, I’m really lucky to have gotten a bonus year,” says Prince. “That perspective for me has been there all year, and just knowing that every last could have been my last season, and how lucky am I to have another year and to continue into the postseason.”
The fifth year senior has been with the program longer than anyone on the team, after red-shirting her freshman season. Howver, the chance to compete in her third-straight tournament almost didn’t happen, when she was sidelined due to injuries at the beginning of the year.
“Being hurt is really hard,” says Prince. “It’s hard to deal with that especially in your last year so I’m just glad I’m able to physically be able to practice every day and do all that stuff with the girls.”
Prince has played 47 straight sets with the Illini, but averages just 1.45 kills per set. Illinois head coach Chris Tamas it’s her leadership that’s invaluable.
“It’s not always about how well you play, it’s about how you can control the situation,” says Tamas. “She’s been in a lot of big situations for us, so now that she’s coming back, it’s been an up and down year for her, in terms of being healthy, but now that she’s back a little more consistently, it’s helped the team a ton as a stabilizing force out there.”
“It’s great to be out there when I can,” says Prince. “To grab somebody and shake them around when they do something awesome, so it’s exciting.”
This is Prince’s fourth appearance in the tournament, the Illini went back in 2015 when she was a red-shirt freshman. The Illini are hoping to top last year’s performance when they made it to the Final Four.
The Illini will face No.17 Utah in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The match will take place in Provo, UT on Friday, December 6th, at 5 p.m. CT.