CHAMPAIGN — Brooke Mosher almost certainly had to wear her gold Marquette sweatshirt Friday morning at Huff Hall. Her older sisters, Claire and Madeline, do play for the Golden Eagles. Family harmony and all.
The orange scrunchie, though, was a nod to Mosher’s future college home. Still, the Class of 2021 Illinois commit had some mixed feelings after Friday’s 25-19, 25-21, 25-16 Illini victory.
“I’m really happy for Illinois, but at the same time I’m really sad for my sisters,” Mosher said. “They both worked really, really hard and deserved to win, but Illinois did a great job.”
Friday’s Sweet 16 match gave Mosher a sneak preview of what might be to come for her own Illini career.
“I love the energy here, and I love the student section — their cheers — and everything about the atmosphere here,” she said.
Mosher committed to Illinois on Nov. 13, 2017. The 6-foot sophomore setter/opposite has put together two standout seasons so far at Waterloo (Wis.) High School. Mosher has 983 kills, 852 assists, 533 digs, 213 aces and 131 blocks so far in her prep career.
“I love the coaching staff,” Mosher said. “They’re really nice. Everything here is so amazing.”
Mosher is one of three 2021 commits for the Illini. She’ll eventually be joined in Champaign for the 2021-22 season by middle blocker Sarah Bingham and defensive specialist Caroline Barnes.
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Part of the several hundred students that turned out for Friday’s Sweet 16 match were other Illini student-athletes. The baseball team had a strong contingent, including coach Dan Hartleb, and other athletes from football, women’s gymnastics, men’s tennis and women’s basketball also turned out at Huff Hall.
Illinois men’s basketball coach Brad Underwood also made his way from State Farm Center after his team’s final practice before Saturday’s game against UNLV. Underwood attended the game with his wife, Susan.
“We’ve got the best volleyball team in the country, man,” Illinois sophomore guard Trent Frazier said. “They’re incredible. We’ve been to a few games. Coach preaches to us trying to get out there when we can.”
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The 11 a.m. start didn’t change much for the Illini.
“I don’t think it was anything different,” junior middle blocker Ashlyn Fleming said. “Before every game, all of us have our different routines. I think we did a really good job of keeping to those things. Waking up early and just kind of getting in the mindset of being ready to play, anything can be thrown at you. It’s how you handle that, and I think we handled that really well.”
The early start didn’t hurt the crowd, either. The announced attendance for the match was 3,341 — about 800 shy of a sellout.
“On a workday on a Friday, it’s not the ideal time to have a match, but I knew when it was set we’d pack the gym,” Illinois coach Chris Tamas said. “It’s really important for us. It’s part of the bonus for having the three seed is you get your home crowd behind you. You had probably 400 or 500 students in attendance. Hopefully none of them missed class — class is very important, students. It’s been great especially over the last couple months.”
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Illinois’ Jacqueline Quade had eight of her team-high 12 kills in the first set. The junior outside hitter set the tone for what would be an efficient — and productive — attack against Marquette.
“She came out lights out,” Golden Eagles’ coach Ryan Theis said. “We know they like to go to her, and she was just really efficient. I thought she threw one out of bounds that we played (in the first set), and that probably helped her out on one of them and gave her a little bit of confidence she probably doesn’t need.”
Tamas credited Quade for putting together another big match in one of the toughest roles for the Illini in playing all six rotations. The Fort Wayne, Ind., native also had four digs and a block, but her big swings at the left pin were the difference maker for the Illini.
“Whenever she gets in a groove like that obviously it helps her, but it helps the team know it’s going to be difficult to stop us that day,” Tamas said.
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Wisconsin made quick work of San Diego in a 25-13, 25-16, 25-10 sweep in the other Sweet 16 matchup at Huff Hall. Dana Rettke led the balanced Badgers with nine kills, while fellow middle blocker Tionna Williams had eight kills and a team-high 10 blocks.
Wisconsin’s win sets up a third match this year against Illinois in the Elite Eight.
“It’s how you manage the moment,” Wisconsin coach Kelly Sheffield said. “You can’t make it any bigger than what it is, but it’s in the back of your mind. You’re sitting there going, ‘This is for a trip to the Final Four.’ Every player is going to realize that, but at the end of the day it’s about playing good volleyball and trying to play good volleyball for long stretches of time.”