UI volleyball fans 'kind of at the mercy of the scheduling'


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CHAMPAIGN — Within an hour of the announcement that Illini volleyball would play its regional match at 11 a.m. Friday, Spike Squad member Jacob Rajlich had a question for athletic director Josh Whitman.

"Hey @IlliniAD, can @SpikeSquad be excused from class on Friday?" the University of Illinois junior and St. Joseph native posted on Twitter.

At least one UI professor was inspired by the tweet to give his students a pass if they have a ticket to the match at Huff Hall on Friday.

Business Professor Joe Petry tweeted that his Econ 203 students will be excused from class if they show the teaching assistant their ticket. "We support you all the way!! GO ILLINI!!" Petry tweeted.

The 11 a.m. start is unusual for Illinois volleyball, determined by ESPN and the NCAA, said Illini volleyball spokeswoman Libby Knight.

The second regional game is set for 1:30 p.m. at Huff.

"We're kind of at the mercy of the scheduling," she said.

The announcement drew some boos: "It is disappointing that we are scheduled at such an inopportune time, but the team is ready for battle nonetheless," said Spike Squad co-chair Andrew Martin, who plans to skip a noon class to be at the match.

It also prompted some meetings Monday afternoon at Huff Hall, where the College of Applied Health Sciences is headquartered.

College officials were trying to decide whether to move or cancel classes that are scheduled to meet in Huff that day, given the crowds and noise expected from the gym. Students would "definitely" hear it, said college spokesman Kent Reel.

Eight classes usually meet in Huff between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. (compared to 971 class sections campuswide), according to campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler. That's a light load compared to the rest of the week, as Friday classes aren't exactly popular.

"It sounds like they're going to send some feelers out to try to relocate some of the classes that are in Huff," Reel said. "It could be up to the professor whether they give students an out to go to the game or how they want to make up the class."

One large lecture hall in the older part of Huff (where the pool used to be) has classes scheduled at noon and 3 p.m., Reel said, and three other rooms in the newer Khan Annex along Gregory Drive also host classes Friday.

Petry's excused absence policy applies to about 120 students in three Econ 203 small-group sections that meet between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. He said it was easy to make adjustments so students can do the class work at another time and turn it in electronically.

"The college experience is so much more than just what happens in the classroom," Petry said Monday.

"To go into the tournament ranked third in the nation only happens with the dedication and passion that I hope to instill in my students in all that they do. Supporting these female athletes in this way is the least we can do."

Parking at a premium

Parking will be interesting for fans Friday, given that it's a school day, and metered spaces will be tough to find, Knight said.

The lot between Huff and the Business Instructional Facility, home to the Gies College of Business, is ordinarily open for evening or weekend games, Knight said. But it won't be available during the day Friday. And the grassy lot south of Huff was closed to parking this season when construction started on the new Siebel Center for Design.

"We definitely recommend that people take our MTD shuttle," Knight said.

Remote parking will be available in the lot at the Bielfeldt Athletic Administration Building and at the State Farm Center lots, she said. Parking attendants will be on hand to direct drivers.

The shuttle, which is free, will pick up fans in the circle drive outside Bielfeldt and drop them directly in front of Huff, Knight said. It will run from 9 a.m. until an hour after the conclusion of the second match, she said.

The lot next to Huff will be open for the regional final match at 3 p.m. Saturday, she said, and shuttle parking will be available in the Bielfeldt lot or State Farm Center as well.

Tickets 'a hot commodity'

All-session general admission tickets for Friday and Saturday's matches went on sale Monday, along with reserved all-session seats for season ticket-holders. Sales were brisk, according to assistant ticket manager Katie Taylor. As of midday, more than 1,900 ticket packages had sold, Knight said.

Single-session tickets will be sold starting Thursday, if any remain.

"It's a hot commodity," Taylor said.

All-session tickets are $30 for reserved seats, $20 for general admission and $10 for UI students. Single-game tickets are $20, $15 and $5, respectively.

Members of the Marching Illini plan to turn out in force for Friday's match, though not with their instruments, said Director Barry Houser.

The regular 30-person volleyball pep band will play as usual, and Houser put out a call on Twitter for all current and former Marching Illini members to come out and support the team — on him. But they can't all play because the NCAA limits the size of team bands at tournament events to 30, he said.

"With the game time being at 11 a.m., we're trying to do all we can to support Chris (Tamas) and the volleyball team," Houser said. "We'll be purchasing tickets for them and just hoping to stuff Huff as much as we can."

Houser hopes to be there, too — if he can rearrange some meetings Friday morning.

Chancellor Robert Jones said he can't give an "official pass" to students to skip classes so close to the end of the semester and finals. But he said students could use their discretion.

He'll be traveling Friday but said he's "very, very proud of the team. They've amassed an amazing record to make it to the regionals."


Julie Wurth is a reporter covering the University of Illinois at The News-Gazette. Her email is jwurth@news-gazette.com, and you can follow her on Twitter (@jawurth).