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    Women's Volleyball

    Illini volleyball meets the media
    Vicki Brown headlines the Illini returnees

    Vicki Brown headlines the Illini returnees

    Aug. 16, 2007

    Champaign, Ill. - The Illinois women's volleyball team continued two-a-day practices this week in preparation for the 2008 regular season that begins on the road at the Dayton Flyer Classic Aug. 24-25. However, before the Illini hit the road, Fightingillini.com met up with head coach Don Hardin and the team as they had a chance to meet with the media during Media Day today at Huff Hall.

    Below is what the team had to say about the upcoming season, the contributions of the freshmen class and the excitement surrounding the Alumni Match scheduled for this Sat. Aug. 18, at 7 p.m. at Huff Hall.

    Head Coach Don Hardin

    About the Alumni Match this Weekend
    "Our team is going to have their hands full this weekend with a good alumni squad coming back. Rachel VanMeter (2002-05) and Rasa Virsilaite (2002-05) have both become better players than they were when they played here by playing over seas and beach professionally. On the outside they are going to be real strong. When you add Melissa Vandrey (2000-03), who puts a lot of force behind the ball, to the mix, it's a solid returning squad. Stephanie Obermeier is going to be setting for the team, so she is not far removed from our system and will come back eager to compete. They are going to push us and could even beat us. I hope that we get a very competitive match."

    About the upcoming Dayton Flyer Classic lineup
    "We have a lot of options right now. At setter, we have different systems that we can run with both Lizzie and Hillary, so the question is, `Who to use or will we use them both?' The outside and middle positions are becoming more clear, so it's a matter of the left side and setter position that we are really trying to explore right now and iron out. So overall, the Classic will give us a chance to see some of those options in action."

    About the freshmen's impact during preseason and throughout the year
    "This group is well above their years than we have had in the past. We have so much competition for positions this year that it's just making everyone better. Before, we would be training a few people for positions, but now we are training several people for the different positions. Everyone is competing and training at the highest level for a spot. Our returning players understood this from the beginning and decided to stay and take the second summer session together so that they could study, compete and train together. They have come back with more intensity than they have ever before and it shows. In the end, our freshmen class is gong to play a huge role for us this year. Everyone of the freshmen is going to see significant time on the court this year and some of them will start."

    Junior Setter Lizzie Bazzetta

    About preparations for the season
    "Every single one of the returners decided to stay down here this summer and continue working out with our strength coaches and getting in better shape. So, we came into the preseason in better shape than we ever have, so the coaches didn't have to waste time on conditioning with the team. Instead, we could dedicate more time to work on technique and meshing as a team since we had so many new people."

    About starting on the road
    "Starting on the road is always a challenge, but we have been working really hard during preseason and are just getting ready for a good year. All of us came into this season knowing that we wanted to improve on what we did last year. We went through a lot of injuries last year and are just eager to get this season going with a deep roster and a lot of new and returning talent."

    Senior Middle Blocker Vicki Brown

    On the team chemistry
    "Our team chemistry is going great. Last week we brought in a guy that specifically worked with just that issue with the team. In those sessions. we had a chance to put everything out there and just talk about our expectations of each other and of the team. Basically we have goals of where we want the team chemistry to be this year, so everyone knows it and everyone is practicing it everyday, so its been going awesome so far."

    About the Alumni Match this weekend
    "I think this weekend will be a really good match for us. It is a good chance to play against a different team across the net than the one we have been practicing against during preseason. That is how we are going to take the Alumni Match, just like any other match. We know this team is out to beat us, so we have to attack them right away. So there is not going to be any mercy points by any means, and we know that we can expect the same competitiveness from the alumni as well."

    You broke on the scene as a fan favorite last year, what do you hope to add to your game this year?
    "I know that everyone noticed me as a good hitter, but I would like to hear more people talk about our team's blocking. This is something that we have been really working on as a team, especially going into the end of the preseason. We definitely want our block to become more of a threat against teams this year, so its something we are taking a lot of time working on."

    Freshman Setter Hillary Haen

    About being a part of the incoming freshman class
    "We have worked really hard as a team to not make it about different classes. Its not about the freshmen, the sophomores or the seniors, we have made it all about the team. It has been a great bonding experience to all come in together as a freshmen class, but all of us have worked hard to get along and mesh with the rest of the team. The entire team has been very receptive and its been going great so far. "

    About a deeper lineup and roster since the freshmen have joined the team
    "It's been awesome to get everyone finally in. During the spring, we had such few players that we were not really able to do a whole lot as far as drills and scrimmaging. Now, we can do so much more during practice. We can play 6-on-6 and compete against each other. It's very competitive because every position is up for grabs right now, which is making everyone just a better player. It's exciting during practice because the chemistry on the court is awesome and the competition is great."

    Change from high school to college that you have experience so far
    "Overall the game is just played at a faster pace. It is very intense and the competition is there day-in and day-out. It has been fun though, getting to learn a new system and coming together as a team."

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