No. 1 Illini volleyball stays perfect, beats No. 12 Purdue

After Saturday night, the Illinois volleyball team not only claims the No. 1 spot in the nation – it also sits as the only undefeated team.

Both No. 12 Purdue and Illinois entered Huff Hall with unblemished records. But Illinois pulled through in four sets, handing Purdue its first loss of the season, 26-24, 25-20, 23-25, 25-23.

The showdown drew a sold out crowd of 4,261. About 500 were turned away as others stood to watch the match.

The Boilermakers led most of the way in the first set. Senior Michelle Bartsch came up late with the last two kills to close out the set in favor of Illinois, which was outhit by Purdue .297 to .194 in that set.

Though the Illini didn’t hit any better in the next set, they held the Boilermakers to -.024 hitting percentage and handed them 11 errors.

Purdue fought back in the third, which saw 16 tied scores. Down the stretch, the Boilermakers came back from a 23-22 deficit to force a fourth.

The momentum seemed to shift early in the set away from the Illini as both teams kept it close. But senior Rachel Feldman had two big digs to give Illinois the overall victory and was a statement of Illinois’ defensive efforts.

Illinois posted 11 team blocks that night, including 26 digs from sophomore Jennifer Beltran.

Bartsch ended the night with 15 kills and 15 digs. Junior Annie Luhrsen’s 44 assists also distributed the offense to senior Colleen Ward with 14 kills, junior Erin Johnson with 11 and freshman Liz McMahon with nine.

The win moves Illinois, who also defeated Indiana on Friday, to 15-0, 4-0. Purdue falls to 14-1, 3-1.