Practice perfect for Illinois' Turner

Alumni report

October 26, 2005|By BILL FREE | BILL FREE,SUN REPORTER

Kayani Turner admits it.

The 6-foot-2 outside hitter from John Carroll loves the routine practice sessions with her Illinois volleyball teammates.

"Right now, my biggest thrill here is being able to practice without injuries," said the second-year freshman who sat out last season with a strained patella tendon. "I admit how much I love practicing because I was out an entire year. Whether I get in the games or not is for sure exciting, but more rewarding is being able to practice each day."

Forget the Big Ten hype and that Turner is second on the team in kills per game (2.69), trailing only Rachel VanMeter, who is second in the nation in kills per game (5.78). Turner is more preoccupied with helping Illinois (11-10, 2-8 Big Ten) turn its fortunes around.

"Right now we're struggling a little bit," Turner said. "We've made a lot of changes and had a lot of distractions. But I think we're moving in the definite right direction, that's for sure. We've had a lot of injuries that have hit all at once."

The Fighting Illini has lost four straight and nine of 11 matches after a 9-1 start.

"She has a great team attitude and has great composure and smoothness. She has the potential to be one of our best offensive threats," coach Don Hardin said.

Turner has become so popular with her teammates that she has even been given a nickname.

She is the "Batman" half of a Batman-Robin team that is completed by 6-2 sophomore middle blocker Vicki Brown. Together they struck for 33 kills in a five-game victory over Nevada-Las Vegas earlier this season.

"I guess the analogy was that I was the calm, cool and collected one [like Batman]," Turner said. "And Vicki is filled with youthful enthusiasm."

Tegeler chips in

Connecticut freshman soccer forward Brittany Tegeler (McDonogh) has played a major role in the Huskies' 10-1 march through the Big East toward the Division A title and top seed in the postseason tournament.

Tegeler has had five goals and two assists this season, which places her third on the team in points (12) entering the tournament. She scored two goals and had two assists in wins over Cincinnati and Louisville the first weekend of October, earning her Big East Rookie of the Week honors.

Tegeler and the Huskies (14-3-1 overall) wrapped up the division championship Sunday with a 1-0 victory over Pittsburgh, earning a first-round bye into this weekend's quarterfinals. They had clinched the top seed last Friday with a 2-1 decision over West Virginia.

Contact Bill Free by e-mail at bfree7066@hotmail.com or by phone at 410-833-5349.

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