BLOOMINGTON — Illinois Wesleyan’s volleyball team has played five of the seven other teams in this week’s NCAA Division III regional at Shirk Center, including first-round opponent University of Chicago.
The Titans beat Chicago in three close sets on Sept. 12 at Shirk Center. What does that mean heading into Thursday’s 8 p.m. quarterfinal between the teams?
Not a thing, says IWU coach Kim Nelson-Brown.
While her Titans are 3-3 against the rest of the regional field, Nelson-Brown and her team are focused on the present.
“We’re approaching it as everybody’s record is 0-0,” Nelson-Brown said. “It doesn’t matter what’s happened in the past. It’s what happens moving forward.
“We’ve improved since then (the first Chicago match) and I’m sure they’ve improved. It’s just being able to counter each other and being able to stop the attack and play some defense. Hopefully it’s a good matchup.”
IWU (22-7) earned an at-large bid, marking its fifth trip to the NCAA Tournament. Chicago has a 23-8 record that includes the 25-23, 25-23, 25-22 loss to IWU.
Other Thursday quarterfinals feature Washington University (24-9) vs. defending national champion Calvin (26-3) at 12:30 p.m.; College Conference of Ilinois and Wisconsin regular-season champion Millikin (28-7) vs. Greenville (26-7) at 3 p.m.; and CCIW Tournament champ Carthage (25-8) vs. Concordia Wisconsin (26-2) at 5:30 p.m.
Semifinals are at 4:30 and 7 p.m. Friday, with the championship match at 7 p.m. Saturday.
IWU owns wins over Wash U., Calvin and Chicago. It has lost to Millikin and twice to Carthage, the most recent coming last week in the CCIW Tournament semifinals.
Nelson-Brown said the Titans are eager to get back on the court.
“I’m really proud of this team,” she said. “We’ve challenged them every day and asked them to get better every day. They’ve done that. Yes, we've had some losses along the way, but we’ve lost to some great teams.
“It’s really not about doing anything different or brand new at this point. It’s just being good at what we do and fine tuning that.”
IWU is led in kills by Nelson-Brown’s daughter, junior Tyler Brown, with 390. Rachel Burkman has 284 and Deer Creek-Mackinaw graduate Kyleigh Block 279. Caitlin Meyer is the assists leader (674), while Brown (491), Block (376) and Jessica McCall (307) lead in digs.
“This week has been fun,” Nelson-Brown said. “We’re trying to get them to enjoy the process. They’ve put in the hard work to be here.”
Admission is $6 for general admission (adults) and $3 for students, senior citizens and children.