CHICAGO (WCIA) — Big Ten football has long had an opportunity to showcase and highlight its players and coaches on a big stage like Chicago, now volleyball is getting the same opportunity with the first Big Ten Media days, something that’s never been done before in any conference.
“To be able to see volleyball on the Big Ten Media Day, I think as a little kid, one day you’re dreaming about that and so luckily I get to say that I was here,” Illinois senior setter Diana Brown said. “But I think that’s huge for our sport, but again, this is not where we should stop.”
“It means a lot to me just to be here and having like girls from my high school and club watching me do this and it just shows them that they can do it too,” Illinois senior middle blocker Kennedy Collins said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s volleyball or anything. Just knowing that they can do it.”
Brown and Collins represented the Illini, alongside head coach Chris Tamas, in the Windy City. Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren was also in attendance on Tuesday.
“These young women are so talented,” Warren said. “They’ll be leaders, they’ll be doctors, lawyers, professors, professional volleyball players, school teachers, and I think one will be the president of the United States one day so I’m just glad that they’re here and it’s an honor to serve them.”
While the Illini got to spend two days making TikToks and enjoying the city, they know heading back to Champaign means business. With preseason practices a week away, the team has a high expectations after reaching the Sweet 16 for the third time in five seasons under Tamas.
“That is the standard now,” Brown said. “You know, it’s not just to get into the tournament, it’s to make the Sweet 16, to get to the Elite Eight. So it’s the standard now for Illinois volleyball.”
“We always look to improve every single way every single day really and we lose a little bit of our ball control from last year, that’s always a big deal and so that’s probably going to be the main goal is to try and replace that,” Tamas said.
And with 12 returners and four newcomers, the Illini are in position to once again compete this season. The first match is Aug. 26th against Georgia Tech.