Illinois makes maiden trip to Big Ten Volleyball Media Days


CHAMPAGNE, Ill. — For the first time in conference history, the Big Ten will host volleyball media days, featuring players and head coaches from all 14 conference teams.

The inaugural two-day event is the first in-person preseason media session for college volleyball, a redshirted senior setter. Diana Brown calls it “a step in the right direction”.

“I always thought volleyball deserved more attention,” Brown said. “On a big stage we can compete and people want to watch it. And so having the media day extended to volleyball, I think it’s a step in the right direction. I don’t want to have the pretentiousness and all, but I think we deserve better.”

Brown and Senior Medium Blocker kennedy collins have the honor of being the first student-athletes from Illinois to represent their team and school at Media Days alongside head coach Chris Tamas.

Tamas is entering his sixth season at the helm of Illinois and has guided the Illini to four NCAA Tournament appearances, including a Final Four berth in 2018. Despite losing first-team All-Big Ten Megan Coney and libero Taylor Kuperthe Illini are set to return a strong roster in 2022.

Collins had a career-best season in 2021, recording 277 takedowns, 13 service aces, 18 solo blocks and 126 total blocks to go with a .336 hitting percentage. In his fourth season in the orange and blue, Collins sees this as an incredible opportunity to be able to represent the Illini on a bigger stage.

“I’m very happy to represent Illinois. I wouldn’t want to represent any other school,” Collins said. “Just being one of the first to take part in this media day means a lot to me, and I’m very happy to represent Illinois, just because we’re a great school and a great program, and everything. the world around me is It’s even easier for me to want to represent ourselves.”

Brown also set new career highs in multiple areas, recording 28 service aces, nearly 1,300 assists, 300 digs, six solo blocks, 73 total blocks and a .302 completion percentage.

As an Illini elder, Brown takes on added responsibility and responsibility by being able to represent Illinois as an individual despite the fact that volleyball is a team sport.

“For two of us to be chosen, it was a bit strange because we normally give team answers and not individual answers,” Brown said. “I think it’s extremely cool to 1. have a Big Ten media day for volleyball and 2. be the first ones elected. So on that account, I think that’s where I love really, take a step back. It’s history, and it’s really cool to be part of that history, and to say that I’m representing this team, I feel very honored.”

The Illini went 22-12 last season and returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2019. After a seventh-place finish in Big Ten play, Illinois qualified for the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2018 behind victories over West Virginia and defending national champion Kentucky on the field of the Wildcats.

“When I step back and think back to last season, I consider it successful,” Brown said. “But we’ve gotten to the point where it’s like we’ve just reached the Sweet 16. We’re hungry for that Elite Eight, that Final Four. I’ve been to the Final Four. I want to get back there.

“That being said, we as a program are talking about the standard now. It’s not just to get into the tournament. It’s not just to get through the first and second rounds. It’s expected that let him come back to the Sweet 16, and we want to get that national ranking in the tournament and the host. We want to be the ones who aren’t the underdogs.”

Illinois will compete in day two of the event along with defending national champion Wisconsin, Rutgers, Maryland, Iowa, Minnesota and Penn State.

Team practices will begin Aug. 9 as the Illini prepare to open their season against Georgia Tech at the Ole Miss Classic in Mississippi on Aug. 27. Conference play begins Sept. 23 at Huff Hall as Illinois hosts Maryland to start a three-game home tie.

“Playing Huff is a different feeling,” Collins said. “It’s in our environment. Everyone is cheering us on, so I think we should take advantage of that and use it to help us prepare for the rest of our season.”


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