Volleyball takes Northwestern 3-0

By Lucas Deal

In a match they desperately needed to win, the Illinois volleyball team beat Northwestern three games to none on Wednesday night at Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston. The win moves the Illini to eighth place in the Big Ten with a 1-2 conference record.

With the strength of Big Ten visible throughout the conference and national rankings, the Illini must take advantage of every close and winnable match they have if they plan on returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004.

“We played really well tonight, especially in games one and two,” Illini head coach Don Hardin said after the match. “We sort of lost focus and let them back in it in game three, but we regrouped and were able to get the win.”

Kayani Turner led the Illini with 17 kills against the Wildcats, while Stephanie Alde added 11. Lizzie Bazzetta had 41 assists in the match, and was one of four Illini to record at least five digs in the contest. Ashley Edinger had a game-high 13.

“Ashley was on fire tonight,” Hardin said. “She had five services aces and no service errors in addition to her great defense and passing.”

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    Illinois used a stingy defensive effort in game one to jump out to an early 30-21 lead. The Illini hit only .243 in the game, but held Northwestern to an unbelievable -.056 hitting percentage to take the early edge.

    “We did a great job of blocking, and it was evident in the stats from the first game,” Hardin said. “Vicki (Brown) had one of her best blocking matches and we just did a great job of slowing Northwestern down and setting our girls up to score.”

    The second game proved to be more competitive, as the Wildcats came out firing and quickly took the lead. The game then proceeded to see-saw back and forth for several points before the Illini offense took over at the 20-point mark and led the team to a 30-23 win. Illinois hit .417 in the game.

    The Illini polished off the Wildcats in the game three with a 30-27 win. The victory moves the Illini 10-3 overall. The loss drops Northwestern to 6-6, 0-3 and temporarily in last place in the Big Ten.

    Northwestern was led by 10 kills apiece from Julie Purcell and Courtnie Paulus.

    “We did a lot of things well today, but the biggest thing for us to take from this game was that it was a complete team effort,” Hardin said. “More than anything else, the way we played as a team was what impressed me the most. It was definitely one of our better matches (this year).”

    Illinois has the next two days off, and the team will attempt to get back to .500 in the Big Ten this Saturday when they host Iowa at Huff Hall.