Illinois Volleyball: Illini lose senior middle blocker to graduate transfer

The Illinois volleyball program will look slightly different when the team takes the floor in 2023.

Just weeks after the conclusion of the 2022 volleyball season, Illini middle blocker Kyla Swanson, a December graduate, has a new home for her fifth and final year.

The 6-foot-4 Swanson announced on Christmas that she will be transferring to Auburn after spending the last four years sporting the Orange and Blue. Now, it’s the SEC version.

“Merry Christmas and Happy New School,” Swanson wrote on Twitter.

“So blessed to announce that I will be pursuing my graduate degree and furthering my volleyball career at Auburn University! Thankful for all who have helped me along the way! WAR EAGLE🦅

The news comes after the Illini, which finished 15-15, failed to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the spring 2020 volleyball season, which was moved due to COVID-19. The Big Ten did not participate in postseason competition, but when fall sports resumed in 2021, Swanson and the Illini had their best season since the Wahoo, Nebraska native arrived in Champaign.

Not only did Illinois have one of its best years in recent memory, but it also shocked the college volleyball world by finishing 22-12 and 12-8 in the Big Ten, which was good enough for a tournament bid.

The Illini went on to upset national title contender Kentucky in a classic four-set match that saw Swanson deliver the winning kill. Illinois would fall to then-No. 10 Nebraska in the Sweet-16 to close out the season.

What were some of former Illinois volleyball star Kyla Swanson’s biggest accolades?

Coming out of high school, Swanson was a highly sought-after recruit who was rated No. 1 in Nebraska as the state’s best overall player.

That feat transferred over to the next level once she began Big Ten play, where Swanson earned several distinctions, including playing in 26 of 27 matches while posting a .329 hitting percentage and securing 106 blocks and 149 kills during her junior season. She was also maintaining a strong work ethic, as she received All-Academic Big Ten Honors during her postseason run.

Swanson was sidelined for the majority of her senior season while nursing an injury. Her departure is the start of what a new-look Illinois volleyball team could look like in the years to come.