Volleyball pressures foes to five



By Meghan Montemurro

The Illinois volleyball team fell to No. 2 Penn State and Ohio State in five-game shootouts this weekend that proved the team could hang with anyone.

“All these five-game losses, we’re scoring more points than our opponents, but we’re not winning the matches.” Hardin said. “That just tells me we are just getting a little bit anxious at the end.”

Before the game against Illinois, the Nittany Lions had not lost a single game to any Big Ten opponent or any unranked team.

Senior Stefanie Alde tallied a career-best 20 kills and hit .457 from the right side. Hardin credited Alde as a key factor in the comeback effort.

“Steph took advantage of their block,” Hardin said. “They couldn’t block her on that side.”

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Fellow senior and middle blocker Vicki Brown had a strong performance, despite nursing an injured hand.

Brown added 16 kills and hit .303.

One area that gave Penn State the added edge came in the blocking game.

The Nittany Lions outblocked the Illini 25-6, tying the Huff Hall record they had set on Nov. 1, 1997.

Boasting one of the best 1-2 combinations in the country in Nicole Fawcett and Megan Hodge, the duo combined for 42 kills against the Illini and was an important factor in the blocking game.

Looking to come out strong against Ohio State, the Illini had a bit of a hangover from the emotional game against the Nittany Lions. Falling behind 2-0 at home, Illinois fought back before succumbing to the five-game loss. The Illini are 1-7 in matches that go to a fifth game.

“Obviously this is very disappointing,” Hardin said after the loss.

“This is somewhat of a phenomenon to have this many matches and to have it in the player’s minds that we have to go five and then we’ll lose the fifth game is something I’ve never seen occur this frequently,” Hardin added.

The Illinois offense had a big night from freshman Laura DeBruler and senior Vicki Brown.

DeBruler finished with 20 kills to go along with 13 digs while Brown added 19 kills and hit .300.

For the second game in a row, the Illini were out-blocked by their opponent.

The Buckeyes tallied 23 team blocks while Illinois posted eight.

Hardin attributes this to the slowing of the offense.

“The story to me tonight was our block was very weak especially against the left side attack,” Hardin said.

“We got blocked a lot and we had to rely on the outside consistently,” Hardin added.

The Illini (12-8, 4-6 in Big Ten) now set their sights toward the second half of the Big Ten schedule as they hit the road this weekend to face Indiana and Purdue.