CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Illinois volleyball is back in the AVCA Coaches Poll for the first time since 2019, coming in at No. 25 after taking down 13th-ranked Penn State on the road over the weekend. The Illini (16-7, 8-4 B1G) received votes multiple times earlier this season but had yet to break into the rankings until this week. Illinois enters a key stretch of its season with four straight home games, three against Top 11 ranked teams in the country. No. 9 Nebraska (16-5) opens up the homestand on Thursday night at Huff Hall, the Huskers are the only team to sweep the Illini in straight sets this season in a match played in Lincoln two and a half weeks ago.

“It’s just another opportunity to get better for us and we played Nebraska already once and fell in three at their place,” Illinois head coach Chris Tamas said. “I felt like we could’ve executed a little bit better and we get another opportunity to do that here this Thursday.”

No. 11 Minnesota (14-6) comes to Champaign on Saturday night, followed by Indiana and No. 7 Ohio State (18-4) next weekend. With just eight regular season matches remaining, seeding and securing an NCAA tournament bid are key for the Illini, as they make a push towards the postseason.

“They’ll be huge wins if we win against those teams, just because they are ranked higher than us,” Illinois junior middle blocker Kennedy Collins said. “So I think that it is important for us to play our best game right now.”