CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — For the first time in more than two decades, the Illinois women’s basketball team has high expectations coming into a season. The Illini are ranked in the Associated Press preseason poll for the first time since 1999, checking in at No. 23 in the country. It’s a big jump after just one year of the Shauna Green era, with the program making its first NCAA tournament in 20 years. Now it’s about trying to live up to that higher standard, something the players say they’re well aware of.

“Honestly, it’s just all about staying focused,” Illinois junior guard Adalia McKenzie said. “It does feel good to get to see that we’re ranked 23rd in the country, but again, just staying within ourselves and just staying focused on the task.”

“Definitely just happy and trying to take it all in,” Illinois senior guard Jada Peebles said. “It’s one of the first times I know for me since I’ve been here, that we’re came in in one of those top prospects, but we’re still trying to grow, still trying to get better, but we’re all just trying to take it in and be grateful for it.”

Illinois returns its top six scorers from last year’s 22-10 team that lost to Mississippi State in the First Four. The lone exhibition game for the Illini is Oct. 30 against Truman State.