Volleyball frustrated

By Meghan Montemurro

They had been in this situation many times before this season, with their hearts being broken almost every time. Yet again, the Illinois volleyball players fell short, this time against Big Ten foe Purdue.

Looking to recover from a tough, five-game loss to Indiana on Saturday, the Illini came out lackluster and were never able to dig themselves out of a 2-0 hole, falling to Purdue in five games, 21-30, 22-30, 30-20, 30-25, 14-16.

“Yes it’s frustrating losing in five games, and yes, we have done it a lot,” Illinois head coach Hardin said. “Being an athlete and a coach pushing to get over the top, it’s extremely frustrating and drives us crazy and we’re working on our late-game composure.”

Early on in the game, Purdue (10-7, 3-3 in Big Ten) seemed to be one step ahead of Illinois (10-6, 2-4) from moving the ball quickly on offense to setting up its blocks. While the Illini were able to jump out to an early 4-2 lead in game one, it quickly vanished as they found themselves tied 7-all against the Boilermakers.

Back-to-back kills by Purdue senior Samantha Mader and an ace by setter Jaclyn Hart put the Boilermakers up 10-7 and maintained control for the rest of game one as the Illini were able to get within one point multiple times. However, they weren’t able to capitalize.

After losing game two in similar fashion, the Illini regained their composure during intermission, and came out re-energized in a must-win game three. Illinois never trailed during game three and led by as many as 12 points in the game with an impressive .351 hitting percentage. The defense also stepped it up, holding Purdue to only .075.

The freshmen duo of DeBruler and Bangert stepped up in game four to force a decisive fifth game.

The intensity of game four was evident right away on both sides of the net. With Purdue keying in on DeBruler, senior Stefanie Alde had a huge performance. DeBruler was impressed with her teammate’s performance.

“She put the ball away and we could really rely on her,” DeBruler said. “She was awesome tonight.”

Alde more than doubled her kills in game four to run her total to 16 overall while hitting an impressive .414.

“I think it’s because of Steph that we fought back,” Hardin said. “She is not a quitter and will fight until the end. Without Steph we might not be in these five games.”

In a closely contested game four, Bangert caught the Boilermaker defense off guard with a tip shot to the baseline score. A big block by Bangert and DeBruler followed with another one from Bangert and Alde as the Illini pushed Purdue to its limit. A costly service error by Hart gave the game to Illinois, forcing a decisive game five.

In the race to 15 in game five, it was back and forth with neither team gaining much of an edge. In a pivotal stretch, freshman Nicole Kump was the next Illini to step up. Behind 7-9, a Kump kill and a block along with Brown tied the game at nine all. After falling behind 13-14, the Illini fought back, knotting the game up at 14 on a quick tip over the net by Bazzetta, catching the Purdue defense off guard. However, consecutive kills by Purdue hitter Danita Merlau ended the Illini’s comeback hopes.

Illinois hits the road again, traveling to Iowa, Friday night, followed by Minnesota on Saturday.