Volleyball defeats Iowa, Minnesota in weekend road trip

By Meghan Montemurro

Another Big Ten weekend road trip, another 2-0 result. For the second time in conference play, the Illinois volleyball team swept its weekend road series, this time against Iowa and No. 11 Minnesota.

Illinois (12-6, 4-4 Big Ten) took care of business right away at Iowa (9-9, 1-6) despite the absence of senior Vicki Brown. Brown has a slight fracture in her wrist and will be able to play as long the break does not go all the way through, which would require surgery.

The Illini brought out a young lineup against the Hawkeyes, with four freshmen and a sophomore quickly taking care of Iowa in a 3-0 victory. It was the first start for middle blocker Abby Nelson.

Outside hitter Nicole Kump also received a start and tallied 10 kills.

“We haven’t seen a lot from Abby, but what we have seen is that she is very aggressive,” Hardin said. “She did really well.”

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Nelson also led the team with five blocks. Fellow freshman Johannah Bangert was big for the Illini with her eight kills and .429 hitting percentage, helping to quickly dismantle the Iowa defense.

With Brown not able to play, Iowa’s defense turned its focus toward freshman Laura DeBruler. DeBruler, though, credits the rest of the offense for her success.

“Lizzie (Bazzetta) did an awesome job of moving the ball around and Alde and our middles were doing awesome,” said DeBruler, who finished the game with 15 kills and six digs. “Lizzie did a good job of putting the ball where the block wasn’t as strong.”

Against Minnesota, Brown made a return to the lineup and Illinois head coach Don Hardin said Brown is a fighter.

“It says a lot against Minnesota because they keyed their block against her and doubled her quite a bit and she hit those numbers anyway,” Hardin said.

It was a big victory for the young team, as it took care of the Gophers in four games, winning 3-1. Illinois came out of the gates and took charge early, winning games one and two by the score of 30-25.

The Illini took another step toward their goal of gaining respect around the Big Ten and the country.

“It wakes up people that we aren’t a team that they can’t automatically consider us a win,” Brown said.

DeBruler and Brown stepped up for the offense against the No. 11 team in the country. Their 38 combined kills and DeBruler’s 14 digs made for a lethal combination.

“The players have fought hard in all of our matches and all of our losses are well contested matches; it’s not like they aren’t fighting,” Hardin said. “I’m just very happy for the team because they continue to fight even though they have come up short so many times.”