Illinois suffers first loss to Wichita State

Junior Amy Palash dives for a hit during practice in Huff Hall, Aug. 6. Adam Babcock

Junior Amy Palash dives for a hit during practice in Huff Hall, Aug. 6. Adam Babcock

By Jessica Warchall

Illinois volleyball saw its first loss of the season Saturday against Wichita State at the Glaxo Smith Kline UNC Volleyball Classic. However, the Illini won their other two matches of the tournament to come home with second place.

Wichita State, a team looking to be nationally ranked, also finished the tournament at 2-1, but Illinois’ loss to the team allowed it to take the first-place title.

The Illini are now 8-1 on the season.

Head coach Don Hardin said the Illini let the loss to Wichita State slip away, 16-30, 25-30, 30-21, 30-28, 15-13.

“We had a team down 2-0, we needed to close it out, and we came out with a little bit of complacency,” Hardin said.

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But Illinois bounced back Saturday evening to defeat College of Charleston in four games, 30-28, 27-30, 30-20, 30 -27. Illinois upset the home team Friday night beating UNC in three straight games, 30-28, 35-33, 30-26.

Illinois came out strong in the first two games against Wichita State. Junior middle blocker Vicki Brown had 13 kills and no attack errors, hitting .813. Sophomore setter Lizzie Bazzetta was assisted by the passing of freshman libero Ashley Edinger as she posted 26 digs.

Wichita State had Illinois chasing them in the final three games of the match.

“We were up 2-0 and really dominating,” Hardin said. “They made a couple of adjustments, we got back on our heels, and we didn’t fight back at the level we could have, so we ended up losing a real close five-gamer.”

In spite of the loss, Brown posted a career high 24 kills in the match, as she hit .463. Brown was also named to the All-Tournament team.

Bazzetta, who was ranked 15th nationally in assists per game prior to the weekend, served up 63 assists against Wichita State.

The Illini returned strong to face the College of Charleston, which had a 30-1 season last year.

“College of Charleston is a very solid team,” Hardin said. “They beat North Carolina handedly in the beginning of the tournament, so for our girls to dig in deep and pull off a win was really important.”

Redshirt sophomore outside hitter Kayani Turner helped shut down Charleston as she posted a career-high 25 kills.

Junior outside hitter Stephanie Alde assisted Turner in the match-ending game four with five kills, adding to her 44 kills in the tournament and earning her a spot alongside Brown on the All-Tournament team.

Illinois achieved a season-high 13 blocks in the match with senior middle blocker Meghan Macdonald earning six block assists.

Bazzetta had 62 assists against Charleston, only one shy of the Wichita match.

Edinger posted 18 digs for the night, and senior defensive specialist Beth Vrdsky had 12, pushing her career total digs to 1,000. Vrdsky is the seventh Illini player to reach the 1,000 mark.

Hardin said his team will not have long to enjoy their last victory because they have to prepare to face Dayton on Tuesday at Huff Hall. Dayton is 7-3 on the season with its only losses coming from nationally ranked teams. Hardin said it will be a hard-fought match.

“Dayton is going for a national ranking, and they believe they’ll come in and take the match from us,” Hardin said. “It’s our last match before Big Ten (matches) and we need to do well with it; we need to avenge our loss against Wichita state.”