Volleyball swept by No. 11 Wisconsin

By Meghan Montemurro

Wednesday night didn’t play out the way the Illini had planned.

Coming out and facing a hot No. 11 Wisconsin team, the visiting Illini were unable to recover after an early surge from the Badgers and were subsequently swept 3-0 in Madison, Wis.

Going into the game, the Illinois volleyball team looked to prevent the Wisconsin blocking and serving game from beating it. But both areas caused some problems for the Illinois squad. The Badgers had eight aces, compared to Illinois’ one.

Despite being outblocked 11-5, Illinois (15-10, 7-8 Big Ten) was able to at least slow down Wisconsin’s blocking attack after the Badgers had blocked the Illini 18 times at Huff Hall on Sept. 19.

“They came out on fire and we responded poorly,” said Illinois head coach Don Hardin, still one victory away from 400 for his career. “They played like a top-ranked opponent in the early going, and we couldn’t stop them.”

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Game one set the tone for the night after Wisconsin (21-3, 13-2) grabbed a 14-5 lead and eventually won the game 30-14. After falling 23-30 in game two to the Badgers, the Illini refused to lose without putting up a fight.

Vicki Brown led the late Illinois charge.

“Vicki showed a lot of competitive leadership,” Hardin said of his middle blocker. “The inspirational play mostly started from Vicki, and we fought back and almost pulled out game three, but the bottom line is that we can’t wait that long against a ranked team.”

Brown’s efforts weren’t enough and the Illini fell just short in game three, losing 28-30.

Offensively, the Illini hit .157 as a team on the night while the hot-hitting Badgers connected to hit .362 in the game. Freshman outside hitter Laura DeBruler led Illinois with 13 kills.

With the loss, Illinois heads back to Champaign, hoping to work out the kinks before welcoming Michigan to Huff Hall on Saturday at 7 p.m.

“That wasn’t the top performance that we’ve ever had,” said Brown, who finished the night with 12 kills. “We just need to learn from this and move on and focus on the Michigan game.”