‘Role model by her play’
Updated: August 27, 2011 3:52PM
Julia Conard had to decide whether she wanted to be an attacker at a small school or the attackee at a big school.
She chose the latter.
Conard, a 5-9 outside hitter for defending DuPage Valley Conference champion West Chicago, accepted a scholar-
ship offer from Illinois.
Although she is expected to be the Wildcats’ main offensive weapon this fall, the Illini recruited her as a libero.
‘‘As soon as I heard the offer [from Illinois], I was thinking that it was too good to be true,’’ Conard said. ‘‘I just want to go there and be the best libero I can be. It just made me fall in love with volleyball all over again.
‘‘If I had gone the other way and decided to be an attacker at a smaller school, I think I might have regretted it later on.’’
At Illinois, Conard will join a growing contingent of players who elected to remain in-state. Twelve of the 17 players on the Illini’s roster are from Illinois, including highly touted freshmen Morgan Criswell from Decatur and Jocelyn Birks from Lyons.
Illinois’ incoming class next fall will include Conard and Lyons setter Alexis Viliunas.
‘‘[Illinois has] a great coach [Kevin Hambly] who seems to get along with the players and who has a great sense of humor,’’ Conard said. ‘‘I really look forward to playing for him. They have a nice group of girls who I seem to fit in with. It’s my ideal team.’’
Conard, meanwhile, is an ideal team player.
‘‘Her teammates all look up to her,’’ West Chicago coach Kris Hasty said. ‘‘She has always been a role model by her play. She is so athletic. She reads [hitters] so well. She has great awareness. She goes for everything on defense and gives 100 percent.
‘‘I would just like her to be more vocal. When you go to a big-time school and play libero, you have to be more vocal. You have to be that take-charge player on the court. I’m hoping she will really step up for us.’’
West Chicago never has won back-to-back conference titles. Conard hopes to change that.
‘‘There’s a new flair at West Chicago, a new spirit, and I want to teach the younger girls what it takes to be able to carry it on,’’ she said.
‘‘We only have five seniors, but some of the younger girls have been quick to step up. We definitely have the potential.’’