Volleyball looking to cage Hawkeyes


By Jessica Warchall

Freshman outside hitter Kylie McCulley was the bright spot in Illinois’ 3-1 loss at home to Northwestern Wednesday.

“If you didn’t know our team, and you were watching for the first time, you wouldn’t know who the freshmen are out there – they’re making plays,” head coach Don Hardin said.

McCulley posted 20 kills and one serving ace in the match with game scores of 30-25, 25-30, 30-26, and 30-27.

Close losses are becoming common for the Illini. Hardin said it is a matter of his team losing its “fight” mid-match.

“We’re fighting an internal battle right now as a team,” Hardin said. “We came up short in a lot of games that we lost exactly the same way – same play, same swing – it’s becoming disheartening.”

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

Senior outside hitter Meghan Macdonald said the Illini know the teams they can beat, but they have to focus on themselves as a team in order to win.

The Illini started strong in Game 1, taking a 6-1 lead. However, the Wildcats took over at 9-8 and did not let the Illini catch up.

The team’s offense was responsible for the neck-and-neck win in Game 2. Hardin said Northwestern was a serving team, but that didn’t seem to be the case on Wednesday. Illinois out-aced Northwestern 8-1. Senior defensive specialist Beth Vrdsky, freshman libero Ashley Edinger and sophomore setter Lizzie Bazzetta each had two aces a piece.

Junior middle blocker Vicki Brown and Macdonald had 9 and 11 kills for the match, respectively.

“I liked what I saw early to mid-match today; there was a fighting attitude,” Hardin said. “Meghan was inspirational early in the match making sure there was energy out there.”

Sophomore outside hitter Kayani Turner, who is ranked 14th nationally for kills per game with 4.86 and leads the Big Ten in this category, came into game three and posted six kills with a .385 hitting percentage. Turner is still recovering from a nerve disorder where her stress fracture occurred last year.

With Turner and Palash still missing practices because of injuries, the lineup is different and it is taking the team time to adjust, Hardin said. They will continue to focus on consistency in practice.

Wednesday was McCulley’s first time playing the full court in a match – passing in back and hitting up front, Hardin said. He said McCulley’s performance is good for the team because they can rely on her to fill in for Palash when her leg is not healthy.

“It feels good to know that I went out there and did what I could,” McCulley said. “I know there’s still more I could have done, I think we all feel that way.”

Iowa Preview

The Illini will look for a turnaround from their last performance when they face Iowa on the road tonight. Illinois is now 13-10 and 4-9 in the Big Ten.

The Hawkeyes are 2-10 in the conference and currently holding the tenth place spot. Earlier this season, the Illini beat the Hawkeyes in a 3-1 match at home; they look to repeat their success and end their three-game losing streak.

“It’s late in the year and returning players are going to want to fight to save face at home on one of their last home stands,” Hardin said. “And (Iowa) sees us as a team that they can beat.”

Sophomore setter Lizzie Bazzetta said it might be harder to win on the road, but that the team must pull off a win. In order to have a chance at the postseason, the Illini must build a winning steak.

“We’re not winning as a team,” Hardin said. “We’ve lost our fight and we have to get it back.”