On the court Monday afternoon, the members of the Illinois State University volleyball team scrimmaged against one another, red shirts versus white.
This is business as usual for the team, which hasn’t faced off against an opponent not wearing the same jersey as them since 2019. They’ve just about scrimmaged each other as much as they can in the months since their normal fall 2020 season was postponed to early 2021. Eager to play someone new-and around the rest of Redbird Arena, it was evident that a season of real opponents was right around the corner.
With invited members of the media looking on as the team's first real audience all school year, the Redbirds took the court to go against one another for one last time in their annual preseason scrimmage. The “red” team swept it and took all four sets, but the notable difference and preview into this season was the players’ new jersey additions- masks. However, senior co-captain Kendall Meier says the team won’t be spending any time complaining when there are games to be played.
“It’s a huge adjustment.” Meier said, “but we’ve had the mentality all year just not to complain. It’s going to be what it’s going to be. If we’re complaining about wearing a mask, that’s distracting us on the court.”
The team, which starts its season with a visit to Marquette Friday, is coming off back-to-back Missouri Valley Conference titles. Head coach Leah Johnson, now in her fourth year with the Redbirds, is excited to flip the switch from preseason practice to game time.
“I think we’re definitely hungry, and I also think we’re a little jittery, even though we’re a veteran-seasoned team.” Johnson said, “It’s that expectation, I mean we’re coming off a championship and there’s probably a bigger target on our back. We’ve given ourselves bigger expectations, so when you come out you want it to be perfect and we have to remind ourselves that the game’s not perfect, we won’t be perfect. We need to be good and get better all year just like any other season.”
After Marquette on Friday and Saturday, the Illinois State team will return to Redbird Arena next week to open conference play versus Bradley.