Meet Illinois volleyball's Final Four team

Meet Illinois volleyball's Final Four team

Beat writer Scott Richey introduces the players on Illinois' Final Four volleyball team:

No. 1 Jordyn Poulter

6-2, Sr., Setter | Aurora, Colo.

The Co-Big Ten Setter of the Year has etched her place among the all-time Illini greats. She ranks third in career assists (5,110) and is the only Illinois setter with more than 400 blocks.

No. 3 Taylor Kuper

5-8, Fr., Defensive specialist | Lenexa, Kan.

After earning 2017 Gatorade Player of the Year honors in Kansas as an outside hitter, Kuper has played in all 127 sets for the Illini as a DS. She leads the Illini with 44 aces and also has 268 digs.

No. 4 Kylie Bruder

5-11, R-Fr., Setter | Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Bruder didn't play in 2017 because of a knee injury. The Illini's backup setter has appeared in 58 sets this season, mostly as a serving specialist, and has eight aces for the year.

No. 5 Ali Bastianelli

6-3, Sr., Middle blocker | Marysville, Mich.

Speaking of record holders, Bastianelli is Illinois' all-time career blocks leader, holds the Big Ten record for block assists and is one of three Big Ten players ever with 700-plus blocks.

No. 7 Jacqueline Quade

6-2, Jr., Outside hitter | Fort Wayne, Ind.

Quade has put together an All-America-type season in her first as a full six-rotation player. She ranks fourth in the Big Ten at 4.19 kills per set and has a career-high 532 kills this year.

No. 8 Beth Prince

6-3, R-Jr., Outside hitter | Avon, Ind.

A shoulder injury sidelined Prince the first weekend of the season and has perhaps limited her some this fall. Still, she has 300 kills and had the winner in the Elite Eight victory against Wisconsin.

No. 12 Ashlyn Fleming

6-4, Jr., Middle blocker | San Jose, Calif.

The missing piece for the Illini this season? Hard to argue after the Pacific transfer earned All-Big Ten second-team honors in her first year in the conference with 204 kills and 126 blocks.

No. 14 Emily Hollowell

6-3, R-Fr., OH/Opposite | Little Elm, Texas

After redshirting in 2017 as a true freshman, a hand injury kept Hollowell off the court most of this season. She made her debut in the third set of Illinois' Nov. 14 win at Northwestern.

No. 15 Megan Cooney

6-4, So., OH/Opposite | Topeka, Kan.

Cooney's role in the Illinois attack increased this season, and she started the year with MVP honors at the Colorado State Invitational. Her 336 kills (good for second on the team) are a career high.

No. 16 Morgan O'Brien

5-8, So., Defensive specialist | Libertyville

The lone Illinois native on the Illini roster slid seamlessly into full-time libero duties after filling in for an injured Brandi Donnelly last season. She leads the Illini with 544 digs.

No. 17 Blayke Hranicka

6-0, Sr., Middle blocker | Denver

Illinois put Hranicka's versatility to good use early in the season with Prince injured, playing her at multiple positions. Most of her 38 kills and 24 blocks this year came in that first weekend.

No. 21 Caroline Welsh

5-8, Jr., Defensive specialist | Marietta, Ga.

The veteran of Illinois' back-row defense has played in 98 matches in her career. Her 240 digs this season are a career high, and she set a single-match career high on Nov. 10 with 17 against Penn State.

No. 2 Diana Brown

6-0, Fr., Setter | Columbus, Ohio

The No. 45-ranked player in the 2018 class and 2017 AVCA Under Armour second-team All-American is redshirting this season — something she was fully prepared for when she committed in 2014.

No. 18 Lexie Smith

5-7, So., Defensive specialist | Lucas, Texas

Sidelined before the season even started with an injury, Smith has not played this year. A 2017 Defensive Dandy first-team pick, she appeared in two sets in 2017 for the Illini.

No. 10 Emmaline Walters

5-7, So., Defensive specialist | Huntington Beach, Calif.

Walters has come off the bench in 12 matches this season and played 29 sets. Most of her playing time has come as a serving specialist, and she set a new career high with seven aces so far this fall.