Illini athletics are on the horizon

Illini athletics are on the horizon

August is here. And that means Illinois athletics are nearly back in session. Here are four key dates to watch out for this month:

FRIDAY

Optimism abounds at the start of every football training camp. Even for teams like the Illini coming off a winless Big Ten season. Lovie Smith begins his third season in charge at Illinois with the first official practice kicking off at 3 p.m. at the Campus Rec Fields in Urbana. All 14 training camp workouts are free and open to the public, giving fans a chance to get an up-close view to the most obvious question going into the 2018 season: Who starts at quarterback on Sept. 1 against Kent State?

AUG. 16

Janet Rayfield's soccer program is coming off a subpar 2017 season that saw the Illini win just five matches, the fewest in program history (Illinois played its first season in 1997). The main culprit for last season's struggles? The Illini scored only 13 goals in 19 matches. So how does Illinois open its 2018 campaign? With a 4 p.m. match at powerhouse North Carolina, owners of 21 NCAA championships. The Tar Heels reached the third round of the NCAA tournament last fall, where they lost to Princeton.

AUG. 18

Right after Fan Appreciation Day takes place for the Illinois football team at Memorial Stadium from 5-6 p.m., the Illini volleyball program, fresh off a Sweet 16 appearance last year, hosts its annual Orange & Blue scrimmage at 7 p.m. at Huff Hall. It's the only chance for Illinois supporters to see second-year coach Chris Tamas' program in action until Sept. 14. Illinois plays its first eight matches of the 2018 season on the road, beginning on Aug. 24 when the Illini face UNCW at the Colorado State Tournament in Fort Collins, Colo.

AUG. 27

No athletic events are slated for the final Monday of the month. But it's the first day of classes for the fall semester, meaning all eight newcomers that Brad Underwood has in his men's basketball program will officially get to feel what it's like to be a college student with the entire campus back in Champaign-Urbana. Samba Kane wasn't in C-U this summer, however, as he tries to overcome academic issues that kept him away in June and July. Will the 7-foot big man find himself back on campus this day? Stay tuned.

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