Illinois volleyball loses third-straight match

Illinois+Michelle+Strizak+passes+the+ball+during+the+match+against+Northwestern+at+Huff+Hall+on+Saturday%2C+October+15.+The+Illini+won+3-0.

Austin Yattoni

Illinois’ Michelle Strizak passes the ball during the match against Northwestern at Huff Hall on Saturday, October 15. The Illini won 3-0.

By James, Boyd

Last year the Illinois volleyball team defeated Iowa in straight sets, but this year the task of defeating the Hawkeyes proved to be significantly more difficult.

Fans inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena were there for over two hours to watch the conference foes square-off against one another and after five-sets, the Illini left Iowa City with their fifth conference loss (20-25, 25-21, 21-25, 26-24, 12-15).

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The win brought Iowa back up to .500 in conference play and improved the team’s overall record to 17-7. Sophomore Reghan Coyle led the way for the Hawkeyes with 18 kills and a .556 hit percentage.

“We kind of missed a lot of assignments in the middle of the court against the Coyle kid,” Hambly said. “We didn’t really get to stop her. I mean we slowed her down a few times , but she was kind of loose and just going for it. “

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    Iowa and Illinois each had five players record double-digit kills in the five-set thriller.

    Illinois lost its third-straight Big Ten match. After starting conference play 7-2, the team is now only two games above .500.

    The Illini had less than 24 hours to prepare for its match against the Hawkeyes after losing in straight sets to the No. 1 Nebraska. Following the lopsided defeat, Illinois boarded a plane from Lincoln and flew to Iowa City.  Senior Naya Crittenden said the quick turnaround wasn’t ideal, but refused to make any excuses for her team prior to its match against Iowa.

    “It doesn’t matter at all,” Crittenden said. “We have to find it within ourselves to battle back even if we’re tired or maybe a little bit sore.”

    Illinois showed no signs of being jet-lagged or sluggish against Iowa. In the first set, the Illini traded several points with the Hawkeyes but after a 16-16 tie Iowa took the lead and never relinquished it. Illinois fell 25-20.

    The rest of the match mirrored that of the first set. Both teams alternated set-wins before Iowa won the decisive fifth set 15-12.

    Despite the loss, a bright spot for the Illini was the continued high play of senior Michelle Strizak. The outside hitter recorded 15 kills and a team-high 17 digs. In the past three matches, Strizak is averaging just over 11 kills and 14 digs.

    Strizak said that Iowa’s defensive scheme opened up a lot of one on one opportunities, and she credited sophomore Jordyn Poulter with setting her up in the right spots.

    “I think offensively overall, we did our jobs,” Poulter said. “I felt like our attackers had room to move the ball around. “

    Poulter struggled with her serving against Nebraska, recording four service errors, but bounced back and reduced that to one against Iowa. Illinois’ setter acknowledged her improvement, but was not pleased with her team’s overall performance.

    Hambly said the coaching staff would have to find ways to help his squad compete for an entire match.

    Illinois’ setter added that for her team to overcome its latest adversity, it couldn’t hold on to its recent shortcomings.

    “We have to let it go,” Poulter said. “There’s a lot of big matches ahead of us, so I don’t think we can dwell on the past. But I think we can definitely learn from our losses that we had this weekend.”

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