Welcome back to Over the Net, the weekly interview series with players and coaches from Mizzou Volleyball that’s taking place over the next few months.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
You’ve already received the award once this season, but how does it feel to be named SEC Offensive Player of the Week?
Jordan Iliff: I mean, it’s an honor. It’s really cool. Especially just coming from being (in) three rotations last season and then becoming a six rotation player this season. I can feel the role difference, and it is definitely validating, but I’m working for it, too.
After the road loss to Ole Miss, was there anything that felt different this past weekend leading to the two straight victories?
JI: I don’t know. After the Ole Miss loss, I think we came into the week just trying to be present and not worrying too much about what happens after these games. And so I think we came in and we just felt really confident that we could take both of those teams and we did.
Down 2-1 after a marathon third set in the Georgia match, what was said in the huddle going into the fourth set, and what was your mindset?
JI: I think it’s hard to lose a set that close and Georgia had a lot of energy, they were a very loud and cheering type of team. And so in the huddle, we definitely were saying to beat this team we have to have more energy than they have and not take that loss. We played really well in that set and it just didn’t go our way. So I think we went into it knowing we had to have a lot more energy and knowing that we had to be confident
Does winning a close come-from-behind match like that make a win feel even better than usual?
JI: Oh yeah, after the game we were all so excited. People were really cheering loud in the locker room after the match, and the rest of the night everyone was just in a really great mood. That game was really fun for all of us.
What are you expecting out of the rematch vs. Texas A&M on Friday?
JI: I think they’re gonna come out fired up and definitely play a lot harder wanting to beat us because we did take them at home. But I think because we’re at home now, we’ll have that home court advantage and we have beat them once. We know what we can do and I think we can we can take them too.
In your next 4 matches you face 3 top-25 teams. How important is having some momentum with a two-match win streak heading into this stretch?
JI: I think that helps us a ton. I think we needed some confidence to know that we can take harder, better teams. And I think having those really helped with that and coming into this weekend too, I think that confidence is definitely going to carry over. Practice this week so far has also been just like really good vibes, positive, confident energy. So I feel like we’re on the up for sure.
What has been your biggest area of growth from last season to this year?
JI: I honestly think confidence. I think from last season to this one, especially going to Anaheim for the women’s collegiate national team and then coming here and playing six rotations, my confidence has just gone up. I knew that I had to fill big shoes, and Dawn has helped a ton with helping me to become more confident. And I think that’s a big reason why my play has jumped up.
What was that experience with the national team like?
JI: It was one of the best weeks of my life. I think it helped a lot with my love for the game because I just got to go and play with the best of the best, be coached by the best of the best. And it was just really high level volleyball, and they really push just having fun, you have nothing to lose. I didn’t think I was gonna be picked for that, and then when I was, I was just super excited. It was a great week.
What do the team mottos of “Love the game, family, grit” and “Sisterhood” mean to you?
JI: I think that’s what makes the volleyball team whole. I think if the team doesn’t love the game, the team isn’t gritty. If the team isn’t like a family or a sisterhood, the team isn’t going to be as successful, and I think that’s what makes the sport so much fun.
Is there one particular area that the team is looking to focus on improving during the next few matches?
JI: A lot of the teams in the SEC run a very quick tempo with their sets, and I think that’s our biggest focus right now in practice, and mine as well, is being able to keep up and catch up to that tempo.
What are the team’s goals for the rest of the regular season, and possibly beyond?
JI: I think right now our biggest goal is to make it to the NCAA Tournament, which I think is something that we’re going to accomplish, I believe that we can. Besides that, I think keeping our sisterhood has been something we’ve talked about a ton, and through it all, no matter what happens, stay together.
Having played in the SEC for three years, what is your favorite place to visit in the conference?
JI: I really like going to LSU because they have the tiger on campus, which I think is really cool. And I really like their facility. I think their facility’s really cool, and just being in Louisiana, I think it’s just not like all the other places, that one’s a little unique.
If Mizzou got a live tiger mascot, what should it be named?
Both mascots would be named Truman?
JI: Oh yeah, and then they can be best friends. I think that’d be cool. But it has to be outside (with a) super big cage. It needs to be happy, too.
You committed to Mizzou very early as a sophomore in high school. What led to that decision?
JI: I came here for camps when I was around 12, and I just had this feeling like this is where I wanted to go. My recruiting process was like, okay, great, I like talking to these schools, but I knew I wanted to go to Mizzou. I also grew up around here, and so it just meant a lot to me. I kept reaching out to them, kept coming to camps. When I was 15, I committed, and I never doubted my decision for a second.
After last season, you had the opportunity to go into the transfer portal. What led to you staying at Mizzou?
JI: When I talked to Dawn the first time she talked a lot about creating strong, independent women, which I thought was powerful, and something that I thought was unique. I had a male coach the previous two years, and I thought it’d be a really cool experience to play under a female coach. She just seemed to be very empowering. I decided I (could) go somewhere else (with a) new coach there, or stay here at a place I love and have a new coach here. Might as well try it out, and I’m happy that I did.
With your father being a Mizzou alum, did you visit Columbia often as a kid?
JI: We came here a few times, especially (for) camps. I’ve been coming to camps for forever. And then during recruiting, anywhere we were going we would stop when we were driving through and just go look at the columns or something like that.
Having that family connection to Mizzou, what does it mean to you to be a Tiger?
JI: It’s such a cool feeling, especially this past season. The fans, playing in Hearnes feels electric, it’s awesome. But I just really feel like Columbia, Missouri itself and Mizzou feel like home to me. It’s my favorite place and it feels like an honor to be able to play for the people that love this place like I do.
Do you have a favorite place to go or thing to do in Columbia?
JI: The big tree. There’s just like a single tree, but the stars are really beautiful there. Me and some girls on the team and some friends will go there and just watch the sunset, look at the stars, and I think that’s what makes it feel so homey to me. (Editor’s note: I think this is the Bur Oak tree)
Do you have a favorite spot on campus?
JI: I really love Jesse Hall and the quad. I always see Jesse Hall when I’m driving in, and I just think it’s really pretty, and also makes me think of home too because you can see that from almost everywhere around the area.
What led to you choosing health sciences as your major, and what are your plans for your career after volleyball?
JI: I’ve never been a math girl, I always kind of liked science, biology, anatomy classes in high school. And I really enjoy helping people. It makes me feel fulfilled, so that’s kind of why I went that route. The plan is to be a psychiatric nurse practitioner and help people through mental health, and I think the reason why is I’ve had my own struggles with mental health. I think helping other people through it would really help me too.
How do you think having gone through that has affected you?
JI: I think struggling with mental illness has made me just a better person overall, because I now can find joy in little things, and I know how to connect with people because I can understand or help them through a lot of what other people go through. And so I think it helps a lot on the court, because I can stay very calm and kind of calm everyone down, but it definitely helps off the court too with friendships and just my own confidence.
Who is the opposite of you on the court, who is the most excited and energetic?
JI: Janet goes crazy, she’ll just be back there in her own world, like hands across her mouth spinning in a circle. So she gets really hyped, but I would also say Dilara and Colleen, they’re also pretty hyped, too.
Do you think having a balance of calmness and energy on the court can be beneficial for a team?
JI: I think it helps to not get too amped up. Because sometimes when you get too amped up, emotions can run high, which can be very positive, (but) it can be negative. I think they balance me and Sierra, Maya, they’re kind of more chill. I think that helps us to actually be excited when we need to be excited, get some momentum going, so I think it helps a lot with on-court balance, (which) is actually really good.
Now that you’re a good way through the season, do you have a favorite memory from this year so far?
JI: Any pregame rituals that we have are very fun. We always play this one song called Visstick Gooi Die Kanker Kick, it’s this Dutch song, and we always get really hyped up before games. And then I would honestly say beating Georgia was a highlight memory, I’ll always remember that game. It was really fun.
What do you think it was that stood out to you about that match in particular?
JI: I think coming back after the third was really impressive for us, and playing in Hearnes is just a really cool experience. The fans were super loud. Georgia was a very energetic team, which made us be a more energetic team. It just felt really powerful, and it was a really good win. We showed a lot of grit and love.
Going back to the Dutch song, does anyone on the team know what the song is saying, or has anyone looked it up?
JI: Dilara showed us that song. She’s told us before what it means, and it’s something with fish sticks. We’re not really sure exactly what’s going on, but we know that it never fails to get us hyped regardless.
Recently there was an announcement that attendance for home matches has increased by 240%. How has that affected the team and home court advantage?
JI: Last year, I wouldn’t say there was this huge home court advantage here, we didn’t have a ton of fans to support us. This year, having fans, it feels like we have so many people who love us and it makes us want to make the fans proud. And them being so excited to see us succeed, it just feels really cool to have fans that love us like that.
As we wrap up, is there anything you want to say to Mizzou fans?
JI: I would say that we love you guys, and that they have made this season so much better than I could have imagined. Coming into it, I think we all knew we were really gonna have to work, and I’m so proud of the team and the staff and everything. But I want to just thank the fans because they have made this season so much greater than I could have imagined.
And is there anything else we haven’t talked about that you want to mention?
JI: We also really appreciate our staff and everyone involved, obviously Dawn and our coaches are great. And then we also have Katie, who’s our media person, everyone who works around us, Eric (sports information director), everyone is really awesome. So we’re really grateful for everyone who works with us.