Redbird volleyball hosted an open practice Wednesday ahead of its Pack the Arena match against Valparaiso Friday night. 

Illinois State volleyball held an open practice Wednesday in preparation for its conference home-opener, when it will attempt to break the program's attendance record with Pack the Arena night against Valparaiso at 6 p.m. Friday at Redbird Arena. 

"I feel like there would be like no better way to have my senior year go," Kaity Weimerskirch said. "If we could break that — which it's been 20 years since since we broke it — that would be so amazing, to just feel that much support from the community."

Head coach Allie Matters expects her players to adjust well in front of the packed home crowd. 

"This is an environment that we're familiar with, and I think that all the hype and the excitement, it might take a little while to ease in. We might get a couple of first-ball jitters, but I think for the most part, they should be pretty comfortable," Matters said. 

Valparaiso has enjoyed a strong start to its season, standing at 13-2. The Beacons won 12-straight matches to open the year, but suffered their first loss while opening Missouri Valley Conference play against Northern Iowa Sept. 30. After rebounding with a five-set win over Drake, the Beacons fell again in their most recent contest versus Illinois-Chicago. 

"Valpo is doing really well this year, so I know we're definitely juiced up to play them. It's always fun to play a good team. I feel like not focusing too much on what they're going to do but just trying to get better on our side every single day is what will help us get there," Weimerskirch said. 

Freshman Emily Weber is still getting settled in the Redbirds' rotation after Matters pulled her redshirt status before the team's upset win over then-No. 25 Illinois. The setter is eager to play in an exciting environment against Valparaiso. 

"I've only ever played in front of, maybe like 500 people. So, hearing that there might be 6,000, it's definitely an opportunity that I feel grateful about," Weber said. 

The Redbirds are looking to find a balance between appreciating the moment and letting it get too big on Friday night. 

"For us, it's managing chaos. So when the ball is up in the air and people are running after stuff, or when somebody gets blocked and we have to transition and run our offense, I think just staying cool and calm and collected in the chaos is going to be our biggest challenge," Matters said. 

The first-year head coach is trying to find consistency in a team that has played through highs and lows early in the season. After the statement win over Illinois, ISU was unable to get a set off then-No. 19 Marquette. Following a 3-1 loss in their conference-opener versus Evansville, the Redbirds beat Indiana State 3-0. 

"I think as a coach, you just kind of have to like give away the control. There's going to be a couple of my starters that wake up on Friday and might not play their best ball," Matters said. "You just kind of have to say your prayers and hope for the best and hope that our environment can help give them the confidence that they need." 

REID WATKINS is Sports Editor for The Vidette. Watkins can be contacted at rdwatk1@ilstu.edu. Follow Watkins on Twitter at @rwatkinssports 

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