Hope springs eternal.
For volleyball teams, the spring exhibition season serves as a chance to put in the work to build upon the past season, try out new player combinations, integrate newcomers and install offensive systems.
The Big Ten will try to re-establish its status as the nation’s preeminent conference after it failed to send a team to the NCAA national semifinals for the first time since 2006.
Four B1G teams played host to an Athletes Unlimited pro touring team, while others faced regional opponents. Here are highlights and takeaways from each of the team’s spring season:
The Illlinii wrapped the spring semester undefeated by picking up wins over Eastern Illinois, Saint Louis and Notre Dame. The biggest challenge for Illinois during the spring was to find a replacement for four-year starting setter Diana Brown. Redshirt-sophomore Brooke Mosher, an attacker last season, ran the offense most of the spring. While the hitters got used to her style, Mosher settled back in, and Illinois coach Chris Tamas said he was pleased with what he saw.
“The spring was good for her, and she got into a groove,” Tamas said. “She knows she’s gonna be running the show presumably for the next several years.”
Mosher is set to take on a leadership role along with junior libero Caroline Barnes, All-Big Ten outside hitter Raina Terry and fifth-year middle blocker Kennedy Collins.
Defensive-specialist Lily Barry and outside hitter Taylor de Boer joined the Illini as early enrollees and Tamas said both should contribute this fall.
After losing two players from last season — Sophie Gregus medically retired, and Becca Sakoda transferred closer to be closer to her home in Hawai’i — Illinois also added several players this spring to solidify its back-row depth.
Vanessa Pan joined the program after three years as a libero at Columbia, where she averaged 2.97 digs per set. Maya Imoto-Eakin signed a letter of intent and will join the 2023 class. She played setter while leading ‘Iolani School to the Hawaii D-1 Volleyball State Championship as a senior but projects as a defensive specialist at the next level.
Tamas said he learned about having enough depth the hard way last year after the Illini dealt with several health issues and they had to piece together lineups.
“It was one of those years that you…
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