Illini fight back, fall in five to Wildcats

By Meghan Montemurro

Another slow start for the Illini cost them in the long run as Illinois lost in five games, 3-2 to Northwestern Friday night. The five game loss dropped Illinois to 1-8 in matches decided in five.

The Illini were without head coach Don Hardin due to a family emergency to be with his father. Assistant coach Kevin Hambly took his place.

Despite taking a 1-0 lead, the offense struggled to get in a rhythm. In games one and two, Illinois hit .035 and .087 respectively as a team. With freshman Hilliary Haen making the start at setter, Illinois went with a change coming out of the intermission. Junior Lizzie Bazzetta got the call and promptly helped lead the offense to a .306 hitting percentage as a team.

“We weren’t in a good rhythm and felt like it was time to make a switch,” Hambly said of the setter switch.

The starting setter position will be a game time decision for the game against the Spartans.

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Freshman Laura DeBruler led Illinois with 22 kills along with 18 digs. In her third game back from her foot injury, sophomore Kylie McCulley tallied 17 kills.

In a defensive battle, libero Ashley Edinger led the Illini with 37 digs. As a whole, the team had 108 in the game compared to the Wildcat’s 84 to go along with 12 team blocks. The blocking game has been a work in progress this season.

“It’s something we focus on a lot and we’re getting better steadily,” Hambly said. “It’s a different blocking game from high school to college, and it takes some time to catch on.”

The Illini will need a quick turnaround as they welcome Michigan State to Huff Hall, Saturday at 7 p.m.