Minnesota heading back to Bush’s alma mater

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Jennifer Whalen

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When assistant volleyball coach Laura Bush came to Minnesota, she knew that sheâÄôd eventually be returning to Illinois, her alma mater, to face the team she once played for. She knew sheâÄôd be doing this as a colleague of Minnesota coach Mike Hebert, the same person she played under for four years at Illinois. But despite knowing all of this, as the Gophers prepared to travel this weekend, Bush said she couldnâÄôt help but feel excited. âÄúJust seeing the orange and blue, memories will be flooding back,âÄù she said. âÄúAnyone who returns to their alma mater has feelings attached to it, and IâÄôm looking forward to that.âÄù Bush will be on the other side of the fight song this weekend, however, as No. 19 Illinois hosts 13th-ranked Minnesota (12-2 overall, 2-0 Big Ten) Friday at 7 p.m. The Gophers travel to face No. 18 Purdue Saturday at 7 p.m. to round out their weekend. The Illini (10-3, 1-1) will not see the same Bush that played for them during the Hebert era. Bush said sheâÄôs matured as a coach, and become more tactful since her playing days. âÄúSometimes I still feel like a player whoâÄôs going to get kicked out of practice at any moment for a smart comment,âÄù she joked. âÄúBut now that IâÄôm a coach, I think very seriously about what IâÄôm saying and am mindful of how I say it. I really enjoy working on this staff.âÄù MinnesotaâÄôs coaching staff worked with the Gophers this week to address IllinoisâÄô two-setter system, which allows for three eligible hitters in the front row at all times. With this setup, the Illini will have one more option to set to than the Gophers, who play a one-setter system, during three of the six rotations. This has given sophomore outside hitter Laura DeBruler a better chance of facing a single blocker, leading her team with 4.31 kills per set. But as of yet, this offense hasnâÄôt been IllinoisâÄô biggest strength. The Illini instead have proven to be a strong defensive unit, holding opponents to a .157 hit percentage with five players collecting at least 99 digs so far this season. Illinois has also blocked well, but have only done so with double-blocks, as just eight of the teamâÄôs 131 blocks have been solo blocks. âÄúIllinois is kind of a hot team right now,âÄù sophomore libero Christine Tan said. âÄúBut we have a goal to âÄòstay alive the first fiveâÄô this year, and that means capitalizing on games that we can win, and so weâÄôll be keying on that this weekend.âÄù âÄúFirst fiveâÄù refers to the teamâÄôs first five conference matches. And Purdue, the fourth match on the schedule, is another one Tan said Minnesota can win. The Boilermakers (12-2, 1-1) have a strong combination of middle blockers in senior Stephanie Lynch and sophomore Kristen Arthurs. Lynch leads the team with 3.58 kills and 1.31 blocks per set and a .421 hit percentage. Arthurs meanwhile has collected 2.1 kills per set, the third-most on the team, and a .291 hit percentage. Hebert compared this yearâÄôs Boilermakers to Northwestern, which ran a series of different slides and attacks with its two middle blockers. âÄúPurdue has a couple of players who are playing really well right now,âÄù Hebert said. âÄúThey have fast arm swings and get the ball down quickly. Lynch is probably the player weâÄôll have to contain to give ourselves a chance to win.âÄù