Volleyball suffers disappointing loss to Michigan

Sophomore outside hitter Kylie McCulley spikes the ball past Michigan at Huff Hall on Saturday. Illinois is back on the road next weekend. Laura Prusik

Johnny Chiang

Sophomore outside hitter Kylie McCulley spikes the ball past Michigan at Huff Hall on Saturday. Illinois is back on the road next weekend. Laura Prusik

By Meghan Montemurro

It was as frustrating a game as any for the Illinois volleyball team Saturday night. Looking to stay in third place in the Big Ten, the Illini (15-11, 7-9 Big Ten) came out flat against a Michigan team that had just come off a tough, five-game battle the night before against Wisconsin.

Illinois head coach Don Hardin summed up the volleyball team’s 3-0 loss against the Wolverines (20-8, 8-8):

“I liked the way Nicole (Kump) came in the match, but I don’t think there are many positives from tonight,” he said.

Game one seemed to set the tone for Illinois. After falling behind 7-3, the Illini were trying to dig themselves out of a hole, but were limited as they hit .020 as a team.

“I don’t think we were really prepared to come out and compete in the first game for whatever reason and just didn’t fight hard in game one at all,” Hardin said, still only one win away from 400 for his career.

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    Throughout the game, Illinois shot itself in the foot, whether it was a hitting error or a bad serve.

    Hardin pointed out that it came down to Michigan keeping the ball in play while the Illini were unable to do the same.

    Despite game one struggles, Illinois did attempt comebacks in both games two and three. Senior Vicki Brown led the charge, as she finished with 11 kills while hitting .400.

    With her 13 kills, freshman outside hitter Laura DeBruler surpassed 500 kills for the season.

    Sophomore libero Ashley Edinger took another step closer to 1,000 digs for her career with 22 more against Michigan and is now only 13 away from the mark.

    While the offense struggled at times, freshman setter Hillary Haen did her part, tallying 32 assists and 15 digs.

    “Hillary was setting well and she put the ball where we were working on and where we needed it, and we were just not executing off of those sets,” Brown said.

    Michigan’s senior outside hitter Katie Bruzdzinski had a dominating performance against the Illinois defense.

    The Naperville, Ill., native had 18 kills and hit .425 with only one hitting error. Michigan head coach Mark Rosen was proud of his team’s performance in a tough environment.

    “I was very pleased with the game plan we had and they executed it well,” Rosen said. “We felt that if we could stay balanced with our offense and pass the ball well, then we’d be able to affect their blockers.”

    The Illini will have a full week off before beginning one of the toughest road schedules in the Big Ten as they travel to Ohio State and No. 1 Penn State.