Slow starts cost Illini in Michigan

By Jessica Warchall

The Illini returned home winless after a weekend of Big Ten volleyball in Michigan. Illinois fell to both conference rivals Michigan State and Michigan.

The Illini gave up three straight games to the Spartans on Friday (30-25, 30-22, 33-31) because of errors. Illinois had 26 attack errors to Michigan State’s 14 and posted eight service errors. The Illini were also out-blocked 10-5.

Despite the loss, sophomore outside hitter Kayani Turner paced the offense with 18 kills in the match aided by 13 from junior middle blocker Vicki Brown.

In games one and two, Illinois was not able to push past Michigan State, failing to take the lead. However, in game three, the Illini found their rhythm and were able keep the Spartans trailing for most of the game.

The Illini defense helped pace the offense as freshman libero Ashley Edinger earned 11 defensive digs, and sophomore setter Lizzie Bazzetta had 42 assists.

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Even with a powerful defense helping the Illini to a 20-17 lead, the Spartans regained control at 23-24 and finished the sweep.

The Illini pushed the match to four games (24-30, 26-30, 30-24, 23-30) against Michigan on Sunday but were not able to follow up on the game three victory.

“The third and fourth games were competitive,” Hardin said. “But in the first two games we came out slow.”

Hardin said there is no explanation as to why the Illini began the matches at a slow pace.

The first two games against the Wolverines were much like the first match as the Illini could not earn an advantage. In game one, Illinois had half as many kills as Michigan’s 20. Michigan held Illinois to a .132 hitting percentage to its .333.

Turner again led the offense with 24 kills and three blocks. Brown added 11 kills and four blocks.

Junior outside hitter Stephanie Alde was the third Illini with double-digit kills with 11 and contributed two blocks.

Bazzetta continued to fuel Turner and Brown at the net posting a match-high 53 total assists.

Hardin said Michigan’s left-side attacking played a large role in the Illini loss.

“We hate losing,” Hardin said. “I hope there is some fight that will come from people so we can bounce back next weekend.”