Volleyball victorious over Southern

Junior Lizzie Bazzetta (left) and Senior Vicki Brown put up a block against Southern Illinois during their 3-0 victory against the Salukis on Wednesday. Erica Magda

Junior Lizzie Bazzetta (left) and Senior Vicki Brown put up a block against Southern Illinois during their 3-0 victory against the Salukis on Wednesday. Erica Magda

By Meghan Montemurro

It was a long night for Southern Illinois.

Any doubts that lingered from the shaky weekend were quickly erased as the Illinois offense assaulted and overpowered the Salukis’ defense allowing it to come out top and win in three games, 30-15, 30-14 and 30-14.

Illinois head coach Don Hardin was impressed with his team’s performance.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve dominated a team like that in three,” Hardin said. “We played close to our potential today.”

In game one, it took the Illini only 25 minutes to take care of business. The offense hit an outstanding .583 with only one attack error. Freshman Laura DeBruler led the quick start, tallying the volleyball team’s first three points, all on kills.

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DeBruler lead the team with 19 kills with six digs and hit .472. Senior Vicki Brown got the crowd rocking with her punishing kills, registering seven in the first game to go along with hitting .700. Brown finished hitting .579 with 12 kills. The tandem of Brown and DeBruler kept Southern Illinois’s defense off its balance.

“It’s really confusing for the defense because they don’t know where it’s going because it could go slide or outside, so it’s really helpful,” DeBruler said. “The setters know where to put it when there is only one blocker.”

The Illini defense was a force, holding Southern Illinois to only .091 hitting in the first game to go along with three blocks – visibly improved since the weekend. DeBruler said it can be attributed to working hard.

“These last couple of practices we’ve really been working on being stopped and then chasing after everything,” DeBruler said. “I know we had a couple of plays where we just some how got it up and over the net so we’ve really been working on it in practice.”

Illinois carried its exceptional play into game two. Chants were ringing from the crowd toward Southern Illinois to “warm up the bus” as the score quickly got out of hand in favor of Illinois as it jumped out to a 10-2 lead.

The defense shut down the Saluki offense again, however, this time it was only able to hit .059. The Illini would not be denied on the other side as they squad hit .600 in the game. DeBruler’s dominance continued as she capped off the match with three straight kill to run her total to 12.

The third and final game was reminiscent of the first two. The Illini replaced starting setter Lizzie Bazzetta with freshman Hillary Haen, but the results didn’t change. Southern Illinois hit a game worse .242, which included 11 hitting errors. Illinois distanced themselves 21-9 after another block from Bangert and DeBruler. The game ended on another defensive error by Southern Illinois.

“In the past, we may not have come out in the third game and put the team away,” Hardin said. “Even with Hillary setting, we didn’t have any drop off in production.”

The offense stole the show from the beginning, though. The Illini also set a season-high attack percentage against the Salukis, hitting .452 for the game.

“We definitely clicked right from the beginning, but the reason why we did was because the passing and defense was right there the whole time.” Bangert said.

Throughout the game, Illinois’s serve receive was challenged as Southern Illinois attacked using short, floater serves. Hardin said Southern used it to try and take away Brown’s slide move. However, Illinois dished it right back, notching five aces on the night.

Anchoring the front court defense, Stefanie Alde and Johannah Bangert made their presence known at the net all night long, combining for eight of the 12 blocks.

“Every time Alde and I are up at the net, we say to each other ‘just wait, just be patient on the block’ and we go up and just attack the ball,” Bangert said. “We work really well together.”

With the win, Hardin is now only one away from his 200th victory at Illinois and will look to accomplish the feat on Saturday at Toledo.