CHAMPAIGN – Rylee Hinton got here nose to nose with Dana Rettke within the second set of Friday afternoon’s volleyball recreation at Huff Corridor.
The 6-foot-2 former Champaign Central standout turned a middle blocker for Illinois towards the All-American 6-Eight first workforce thrice for the Badgers. One of many hardest situations in school volleyball given Rettke’s standing as arguably the very best participant within the nation.
Hinton stood agency. His joust on the web with Rettke was a draw. Simply one of many few notable performs the Champaign native made in Illini’s residence opener.
Rettke and the Badgers simply did extra. Illinois struggled in a prolonged second set, however No. 1 Wisconsin received Sport 1 of the two-game weekend sequence 25-20, 30-28, 25-9. The rematch between the Badgers (Three-Zero, Three-Zero Large Ten) and the Illini (2-1, 2-1) comes at 11 a.m. Saturday at Huff.
“I advised the workforce on the finish of the sport, I’d solely be dissatisfied if we gave up,” Illinois coach Chris Tamas stated. “I do not really feel like we gave up. I felt like we have been surpassed. It is simply a type of issues that could be a studying second for us. I’m very pleased with how we performed the primary two units. I am fairly pleased with how we performed within the final set. Clearly, he would love the rating to mirror that just a little higher, however it’s a part of the training course of. “
That course of has included actual progress for Hinton. Her enjoying time was sporadic in 2019 as a real freshman. She had one of many beginning middle blocker positions early on, however ended up enjoying in simply 9 video games with 5 begins.
That led to some frank conversations with Tamas in what turned out to be an prolonged offseason. Hinton had one objective in thoughts: get on the court docket, get again to that place to begin, and set his sights on that for the previous 10 months.
“Confidence is a large factor, and I believe it undoubtedly builds on that in each recreation and each apply,” stated Megan Cooney, Illini’s senior exterior hitter who had 13 kills on Friday. “I see her constructing that belief with the purpose guards and likewise in herself in order that she will be able to undergo the massive modifications and the massive block strikes.”
Tamas doesn’t award a “Most Improved Participant” award yr after yr. Nonetheless, if it did, it will be from Hinton. The brief enjoying time he earned as a freshman in 2019 was the catalyst for extra this season.
“She made a plan for herself, not simply what we have been doing within the fitness center, however what she modified exterior of the fitness center in her habits to be an incredible athlete and an incredible volleyball participant,” Tamas stated. “She has finished job bettering her recreation, particularly from the offensive facet. … She has had a very good mindset via all of this. We had plenty of time to coach within the offseason, and he or she confirmed us all of that within the offseason as nicely. “
Hinton’s plan, after all, needed to be versatile amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He missed his probability in a spring season when all Illinois sports activities have been shut down final March.
“It took plenty of self-discipline as a result of every little thing was closed for therefore lengthy,” stated Hinton, who had six kills and two blocks towards Wisconsin. “We could not apply. I knew I wished to be on the court docket this yr and I wished to assist my workforce. To try this, I used to be going to must make some modifications. “
The large change on the court docket was turning into rather less predictable as a weapon within the Illinois assault. Whereas Hinton claimed the High Ten Defensive of the Week honors after Illini’s season-opening sweep of Iowa final weekend, his offensive contributions have elevated considerably.
“My vary as an attacker has improved so much,” he stated. “Coming in as a freshman, I had an opportunity and it was very straightforward to learn. The protection would simply camp there once they knew I used to be hitting as a result of I hit the identical manner each time. Now I’ve rather more scope and imaginative and prescient and clearly my block has made nice strides. It nonetheless wants some work, but it surely has improved so much. I am touching much more balls. “
Turning these touches into blocks was Friday’s problem towards Wisconsin. And never only for Hinton. The Badgers withstood exterior attackers Molly Haggerty and Grace Loberg on Friday and relied on their media, Rettke and Danielle Hart, for a mixed 25 spikes and 6 blocks.
“The truth that everybody is aware of they’ve nice media is a problem in itself as a result of it makes you need to give attention to them on a regular basis,” Hinton stated. “However you continue to have two different hitters on the pin that it is advisable give attention to as nicely. The largest problem is sustaining self-discipline in my studying and never simply going with the media. “
Scott Richey is a reporter protecting school basketball for The Information-Gazette. His e mail is email@example.com and you may comply with him on Twitter (@srrichey).