Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Under Grentz's Guidance, Illini Take Aim at a Banner Season

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Under Grentz's Guidance, Illini Take Aim at a Banner Season

Article excerpt

Blue and orange banners bragging of Big Ten volleyball championships in 1986, '87, '88 and '92 hang proudly above the gymnasium floor at Huff Hall.

Not a word about women's basketball. Nothing.

The signs are a constant reminder to Theresa Grentz of a task she accepted last season: to improve a lacking women's basketball program at Illinois. By all accounts, Grentz is succeeding. In the Big Ten, Illinois (15-4, 7-2) is tied with Wisconsin for second place, behind Michigan State. Nationally, this week's Associated Press poll lists the Fighting Illini at No. 25. Excluding this season's preseason poll, which put Illinois at No. 23, the team had not been ranked in the top 25 since December 1987. The ranking, however, doesn't faze Grentz, particularly since she believes Illinois is better than No. 25. "We're definitely a top-20 team," Grentz said. "The No. 1 team in the league is Michigan State and we beat them. We beat Wisconsin at Wisconsin, we beat Penn State at Penn State . . . We beat Arkansas at Arkansas. We've got some pretty legitimate wins. "This is a team that is learning and it's learning quickly, and I think it deserves to be there." As do Illini fans. Last season, Grentz's first as a Big Ten coach, the Illini had their first-ever sellout crowd, against Purdue. Huff Hall was packed once again Jan. 19 with a record crowd of 4,050. Average attendance this season is 2,577, up from last season's average of 1,744 and 633 the previous year. There is talk of remodeling Huff to handle 6,200-6,800 fans, the coach said. Such a move would improve the chances of Illinois Chancellor Michael T. Aiken getting a seat; he was turned away at last season's sellout when an usher failed to recognize him. …

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