CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Illinois is getting thrown into the fire early, facing its second ranked opponent in just the third weekend of the season. Illinois volleyball will travel to No. 9 Penn State at Huff Hall for two matches this weekend.
The Illini are coming off two-straight losses to top-ranked Wisconsin. Outside hitter Megan Cooney led the weekend for the Illini with 31 kills and a .310 hitting percentage. Defensively, Taylor Kuper earned 31 digs for the Illini with five aces. Middle blocker Kennedy Collins earned 8 kills, with a .583 hitting percentage. While the Illini fell short in both matches against the Badgers, they were able to take a set off the No. 1 team in the country. That marked the first time this season that the Badgers dropped a set, giving the Illini confidence they can compete with the Big Ten’s best.
“We’re just continuing to play our game and get better for our next competition,” says sophomore Kennedy Collins. “They’re all going to be tough, but we know we can hang with the top-ranked teams.”
Penn State is coming off a 2-week pause due to a COVID-19 outbreak within in their program. They’ll be playing their first match of the season on Friday against Illinois. Head coach Chris Tamas says they had to prepare differently for this week without relying on any game film from the Nittany Lions. However, Tamas knows it’s going to be a battle regardless.
“It’s always been tough. For the last decade or so the Big Ten’s been a top of the echelon in terms of having 5,6,7 teams ranked in the Top 25,” says Tamas. “Whatever team steps up our mantra is one day at a time, and just whoever wants to play, we’re happy to play and compete with them.”
Illinois starts the series against Penn State with an 8:00 p.m. match on Big Ten Network Friday night. They’ll follow with a 5:30 p.m. match on Saturday.