Illini play well, but split road weekend

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Online Poster

By Mike Czapar

Sometimes, no matter how well a team performs, it seems its opponent has a comeback for every great play. Saturday night, the No. 25 Illinois women’s volleyball team experienced one of those nights, losing to Purdue in a tough five-game battle.

In a match that featured many lead changes, the Illini were knocking on victory’s door in game four. Illinois was tied at 29, after earning a 2-1 advantage winning games one and three. However, the Boilermakers pulled off a 32-30 victory to force game five, and Purdue never looked back winning 15-11 in the rally game.

Head coach Don Hardin was disappointed with the loss, but pleased with the high level of intensity the Illini faced throughout the match.

“This was a very good Big Ten match,” Hardin said in the team press release. “Playing on the road in this conference is always a challenge. That’s what we’ll face in the post-season, so we might as well be prepared.”

With the post-season looming in the not-too-distant future, the Illini need to win as much as possible in their remaining three matches. Illinois will have its work cut out as it takes on three consecutive Big Ten opponents who are ranked in the top 10: Ohio State, Penn State and Minnesota.

The Illini effort was led by senior outside hitter Jessica Belter’s 24 kills, but also featured four other players with double-digit kills. Illinois played tough defense, led by senior defensive specialists Lauren Harks and Kathleen Bazzetta, who had 14 and 15 respective digs but were unable to stop a balanced Purdue attack.

Despite disappointment in the second match of the weekend, the Illini played well on the weekend and swept Indiana convincingly on Friday 30-20, 30-18 and 30-22. The Illini won their fourth straight Big Ten match in a row, boasting a high attack percentage of .402 dispersed throughout several hitters.

Sophomore setter Stephanie Obermeier showed her maturity, chalking up her first career double-double with 11 digs and 38 assists.

Hardin was very pleased with Obermeier’s performance and was impressed with the depth of the Illini offense.

“I thought Stephanie Obermeier was phenomenal, especially her back row defense,” Hardin said in the team press release. “She did a nice job of setting the middle and mixing up our offense.”

Although the Illini did not finish with two wins, they began the weekend playing exceptional volleyball.

“We came out of the chute running and never gave (Indiana) a chance to gain confidence,” Hardin said in the team press release. “The first part of our weekend had great intensity, attitude and execution.”

The Illini’s next chance to execute is Friday, when they face Ohio State.