Illini beat Badgers in away rematch


Austin Yattoni

Illinois outside hitter Jacqueline Quade hits the ball from the back row during the match against Nebraska at Huff Hall on Sept. 29. The Illini lost 3-1.

By Brian Binz, Staff Writer

Just one week after losing to Wisconsin in Huff Hall, the Illinois volleyball team had a chance to flip the script.

The No. 7 Illini headed to Madison to battle the No. 8 Badgers and picked up their first win of the year against a top-10 Big Ten team.

The game started the same way as the last one, with Wisconsin taking the first set in a close 25-23 contest that saw Illinois stave off four set points, much like the close 25-21 and 25-23 losses in its overall 3-1 loss at Huff.

According to senior middle blocker Ali Bastianelli, the loss of the first game was the team’s turning point.

“We kinda just made the decision that they weren’t gonna win another game,” Bastianelli said. “We were so resilient, and it was an all-around good team win.”

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    The Illini took the next three sets to avenge their four-set loss in Huff with their first win over the Badgers since 2013.

    After taking the second set in a close game, the Illini faced another huge test.

    In the pivotal third set, the Illini came back from being down 7-3 early to take a late 24-22 lead. Wisconsin scored two points to tie it up at 24-24, which led the two teams to trade points until Illinois scored three straight after falling down 33-32.

    It wasn’t just the score that was bizarre. Due to the extended nature of the set, the Illini ran out of substitutions, meaning 5-foot-8-inch junior defensive specialist Caroline Welsh was playing in the front line during the overtime sessions.

    “To survive that was a big deal,” said head coach Chris Tamas. “It would’ve been easy to make an excuse why we didn’t win that set, but we did a good job managing those sequences.”

    During the last rally of the set, Welsh made a diving dig that led to the winning shot from outside hitter Jacqueline Quade.

    After that, Illinois closed out Wisconsin 25-23 and secured the revenge victory.

    The Illini were led by a career-high 26 kills for Quade along with standout performances from Poulter, who had 55 assists and 13 digs, and Morgan O’Brien, who tied a career-high with 24 digs on the back line.

    The Illini outhit the Badgers with a front-line defense that registered 15 blocks led by nine from middle blocker Ashlyn Fleming, holding the Badgers to a .210 hitting percentage to the Illini’s .220.

    The Illini also did damage from behind the service line, with eight aces making for their ninth game with seven or more.

    While at the end of the day the game only counted for one win on the record, to some Illini, it meant more than that.

    “Me and Ali haven’t beaten Wisconsin our entire time we’ve been at Illinois,” Poulter said. “I think that was a pretty sweet feeling, to beat them on their home floor; it was a really fun match.”

    After losing their first three games against top Big Ten competition, including their first loss of the year in straight sets against Minnesota on Friday night, the Illini had been looking for that next gear.

    “I think this is the toughest span we’ve had,” Poulter said. “It was a grind and we got better coming out of it.”


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