Volleyball season ends with victory

Vicki Brown spikes over a Penn State player at Huff Hall on Oct. 19. Illinois finished its season with a shutout victory against Iowa. Erica Magda

Vicki Brown spikes over a Penn State player at Huff Hall on Oct. 19. Illinois finished its season with a shutout victory against Iowa. Erica Magda

By Meghan Montemurro

It was a satisfying finish for the seniors of the Illinois volleyball team.

Playing in the final home game of their careers, seniors Vicki Brown, Stefanie Alde and Amy Palash left Huff Hall with a victory, defeating the Iowa Hawkeyes 3-0. After finishing the season 16-14 and 8-12 in Big Ten, Illinois’ postseason aspirations are up in the air.

Not only did the Illini finish off the season with a win, the victory against the Hawkeyes was the 400th for Illinois head coach Don Hardin.

“It’s an honor to be coaching long enough to have that many wins,” Hardin said of win No. 400 in a press release

Middle blocker Vicki Brown closed out her career in what has become the norm for the Toledo, Ohio, native. Brown hit for .444 with 12 kills against Iowa (9-22, 1-19). Right side hitter Stefanie Alde added five kills, compiling 274 kills for the year, setting a new personal season mark. Fellow senior Amy Palash finished her collegiate career with a total of 984 kills in four seasons, the first two at Valparaiso University and the final two at Illinois.

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“I was glad to see the seniors go out with a win,” Hardin said. “It’s been a long hard season and they could have given up, but they fought hard to the end. Because of that, tonight’s win was satisfying.”

The Iowa defense was overmatched all night as standout freshman Laura DeBruler paced Illinois with 15 kills, 10 of which came in game one. Junior setter Lizzie Bazzetta led the balanced offense, finishing the night with 50 assists.

However, the Illini defense wasn’t lagging behind the offense. Libero Ashley Edinger led the team with 16 digs, and finished the season setting a new record of 564 digs. The defense also slowed down the Hawkeye attack, as they hit only .155 in the game.

While the serving game has had its up and down moments this season, Illinois was on the top of its game Saturday night. The Illini posted seven aces, led by freshman Lea Zarytsky’s three aces, while Iowa managed to only get two.

It was a much-welcomed victory after falling in a tough five-game battle the night before against Minnesota (18-11, 11-8). DeBruler and sophomore Kylie McCulley were on fire, finishing with 23 and 21 kills, respectively. Despite going up 2-0 on the Gophers, Illinois was unable to finish them off.

One contributing factor was the blocking disparity between the two teams. Minnesota finished the game with 21 blocks compared to Illinois’ five.

“The only stat that weighed heavily in their favor was their block and our offense sputtering,” Hardin said. “We got good kill numbers from both Kylie and Laura, but can’t ride those two. We have a lot of young players and have shown we get anxious in the fifth game, so game three was when we needed to pull it out.”

With the regular season at a close, Illinois will be waiting to see if it will earn an NCAA Tournament berth, which will be announced in upcoming days.