Volleyball team open Big Ten with loss

Amy Palash sets up for a bump while Kristine Anderson readies herself for her next move against the Illinois State Redbirds on Friday night at Huff Hall. The match was a win for the Illini in the State Farm Illini Classic. Suzanne Stelmasek The Daily Illini

Amy Palash sets up for a bump while Kristine Anderson readies herself for her next move against the Illinois State Redbirds on Friday night at Huff Hall. The match was a win for the Illini in the State Farm Illini Classic. Suzanne Stelmasek The Daily Illini

By Jessica Warchall

Illinois volleyball stumbled in its Big Ten opening weekend. The Illini lost six straight games at Huff Hall to finish the weekend at 0-2 in the Big Ten. Wisconsin and Minnesota pulled past Illinois, winning the matches 30-26, 30-26, 30-25 and 30-27, 30-18, 32-30, respectively.

Illinois head coach Don Hardin said his team is not emotionally or mentally prepared to “get over the top” in close games.

“They don’t believe in themselves enough to do it at critical moments,” he said.

The Illini (9-3, 0-2) came out strong on Friday against the Badgers (10-2, 2-0) with freshman outside hitter Stephanie Alde and junior middle blocker Vicki Brown making key attacks early in the going. But Wisconsin tied the game at 15 and dominated to the end.

Kills from sophomore outside hitter Kayani Turner helped the Illini take a 15-11 lead in game two. Senior setter Stephanie Obermeier posted two aces, but the Badgers took over. Freshman libero Ashley Edinger did manage to tie the game at 23 with an ace, but that was the last chance the Illini saw.

Game three was close throughout as the teams saw nine tied scores. Wisconsin finished with 12 blocks to Illinois’ eight.

“With any Big Ten team, you’re going to get blocks – it’s going to happen from here on out,” Turner said. “We have to attack the blocks, we can’t be scared of blocks. Wisconsin has a great block and it was present tonight.”

Turner said in order to move on from the loss, the team needs to figure out what it did on its side of the net to fall short.

“When we’re head-to-head, there is something missing on our side,” Turner said.

Minnesota head coach Mike Hebert said his team won on Saturday because it won the serve-pass battle and made fewer serving errors. Minnesota (8-4, 2-0) posted eight service errors as Illinois posted 13.

Hardin said the missed serves were not aggressive errors like he expects but “horrible serves.”

Sophomore setter Lizzie Bazzetta said Illinois needs to focus on not turning one error into two, as was the case in game two.

Illinois hit -.031 as a team while Minnesota hit .167. Turner and Brown only saw three and two kills in game two, respectively. Brown finished the match hitting .200; she has been averaging over .400.

“We released our middle blocker out to double team Brown every time we got the chance, and she was still able to pound the ball inside our block,” Hebert said. “Finally, toward the end of game two, we touched a few on the block.”

Minnesota’s plan against Brown worked, and Hardin said it worked against Alde as well. They closed her out to the point where he had to take her out of the game. Minnesota out-blocked Illinois 11-4.

“It (game two) was a bail out by a few individuals – giving up, quitting – which doesn’t sit well with me,” Hardin said.

Bazzetta agrees the Illini doubted themselves this weekend. She said after four close games that they could not manage to close out, the Illini let their frustrations get to them.

“We needed game three tonight, but we still didn’t come up with it,” Hardin said. “We’re going to keep pushing; I predict we’re going to have a breakthrough, but I don’t know when it’s going to come.”