CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — The Illinois volleyball team opens its season this weekend with a home-and-home series against Tennessee. The No. 6 Illini will visit Knoxville and the 19th-ranked Vols on Friday night, before returning to Champaign for a rematch on Sunday afternoon. It’s one of just nine games against teams in the Top 25 for Illinois this season.
Expectations are sky high following the team’s run to the Final 4. Illinois was up 2-0 to Nebraska in the national semifinal match before losing three straight sets. The Illini lose All-Americans Jordyn Poulter (setter) and Ali Bastianelli (middle blocker) but return another All-American in outside hitter Jacqueline Quade.
“Everyone has dreams of national titles and going undefeated and stuff like that, but the reality is that’s not how our game goes,” Illinois head coach Chris Tamas said. “There’s lots of good teams in our conference and we’re just looking to improve, and that’s really been the goal since I’ve been here, just one day at a time.”
“Going into this year, we just know we need to go in with that same hard work and focus,” Illinois junior defensive specialist Morgan O’Brien said. “(If) we come into the gym every day and that’s our one way to get back there is if we do our best every single day.”