Volleyball defeats Hawkeyes in Iowa

Volleyball defeats Hawkeyes in Iowa

By Jessica Warchall

The Illini fought through their longest game of the season Friday in Iowa. They rallied to a 39-37 game-four victory to seal their match win against the Hawkeyes.

Illinois started slow but found its footing to end its three-game losing streak with scores of 19-30, 30-28, 31-29 and 39-37.

“It was a huge fighting effort,” head coach Don Hardin said. “The way we got blown out in game one, we could have kept the same thing going, but there was a lot of effort and a lot of fight.”

Hardin said sophomore middle blocker Rachel Henderson had a lot to do with the turnaround in game two.

“We’ve kind of been on a tail spin, and Rachel Henderson came in to spark the team,” Hardin said.

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Henderson had five kills, one of which ended the intense game four, and a .500 hitting percentage for the night. She also had one service ace and a solo block.

Four Illini players had double-digit kills on the night.

Freshman outside hitter Kylie McCulley continued her strong play with a career-high 21 kills. She also contirbuted a service ace.

“Kylie’s an unbelievable freshman,” Hardin said. “Plus, she’s been passing all-around, which has been great.”

Even with her injury, sophomore outside hitter Kayani Turner found her energy. She had 16 kills, a solo block and two block assists. Performing little in practice, Turner is still proving she’s on top of her game.

“With everything (Turner) is going through, to get 66 (attack) attempts and hit like she did, she was unbelievable,” Hardin said. “She got some key blocks at the end of the match, and it was really inspirational.”

Junior middle blocker Vicki Brown had 18 kills and junior outside hitter Stephanie Alde added 10. Brown also added two solo blocks and two block assists.

Illinois’ consistent defense and passing also wore Iowa down, Hardin said. Freshman libero Ashley Edinger had 30 digs for the second time this season. She also earned a .971 serve receive percentage for the match.

Sophomore setter Lizzie Bazzetta posted 63 assists and added 13 digs. She and Edinger had two aces apiece on the night.

Hardin said the team needs to maintain its energy and fight to come out on top in its upcoming contests. He said the team is not thinking about the postseason but about its final six regular season match-ups.

“We still have a lot of volleyball left against some great teams,” Hardin said. “We just need to focus on pulling off upsets and clawing our way back up.”