Volleyball defeats Spartans, Wildcats

By Meghan Montemurro

Looking to rebound in conference play, the Illinois volleyball team did just that, defeating Michigan State 3-2 on Friday and Northwestern 3-0 Saturday. The victories improved the Illini to 10-4 overall and 2-2 in Big Ten.

Illinois expected a tough game on the road against the Spartans and it got one. Falling behind 2-0, it looked like Illinois was going to lose quickly.

Head coach Don Hardin said game two was the first time he had seen his team let down this season. However, after regrouping during intermission, the Illini came out fighting, eking out back-to-back wins in games three and four, 30-28 and 30-25, respectively.

After falling behind 7-5 in game five, freshman Johannah Bangert stepped up with a pair of blocks and the Illini took a 12-9 lead after a kill by Amy Palash. Michigan State pushed back, but Illinois finished it off on a kill by freshman Laura DeBruler to win 15-12. It was the Illini’s first five-game win of the season; they were previously 0-3 in five-game matches.

“It felt awesome to come back and get the victory,” Bangert said. “We had been there so many times and we were so determined to get the job done.”

A well-balanced offense led the way against the Spartans, paced by DeBruler’s 19 kills and senior Vicki Brown’s 18 kills and .333 hitting percentage. With the Michigan State defense keying in on Brown and outside hitter Stefanie Alde, fellow senior Palash stepped up, contributing 13 kills and nine digs.

“When they do that and someone like Amy steps up, it really makes a difference,” Hardin said. “Amy really had a remarkable weekend.”

The defense was no slouch either, as the blocking game stepped up against one of the better outside hitting teams in the Big Ten. Illinois posted 14 blocks against the Spartans, led by Bangert’s eight.

“The defense was a major part in us winning,” Brown said. “We were able to run our offense with it and the different options we have.”

Against Northwestern, it didn’t look like the Illini had just played a five-game match the day before, easily taking care of the Wildcats in three games, 30-25, 30-25, 30-23. The freshman tandem of DeBruler and Bangert lit up the court as they combined for only one error in 48 attack attempts and 25 kills.