Illinois volleyball notches hard-fought four-set victory over Michigan


Logan Hodson

Middle blocker Kennedy Collins prepares to serve the ball against Michigan Oct. 23. The Illini won the match 3-1.

By Jackson Janes, Sports Editor

Illinois defeated Michigan, 3-1 (26-24, 25-19, 24-26, 26-24) on Saturday afternoon behind big performances from junior middle blocker Kennedy Collins and graduate student outside hitter Megan Cooney.

“They’re a nice team; they’ve had some really quality wins this year,” said head coach Chris Tamas. “It was good that we were able to jump out to a 2-0 lead, and we knew they were going to come back. It was good to see us fight until the end, and obviously you want to end it right then and there instead of having to go to a fifth, so it was really good resilience by us.” 

In the first set, the visiting Wolverines jumped out to a quick 5-3 lead, though Illinois battled back and eventually went on a 5-1 run to take a 12-10 lead. In a true back-and-forth frame, Michigan took a late three-point lead and went up 19-16, though a 5-0 run that was powered by three Michigan errors and kills from Raina Terry and Megan Cooney turned that deficit into a two-point Illini lead. Michigan battled back, and after Illinois jumped ahead 24-23, the Wolverines fended off one set point before Illinois took the first set, 26-24, on kills from Kennedy Collins and Jessica Nunge.

Collins attributes the team’s success when she’s on the court to the calming presence and personality.

“It means a lot,” Collins said. “Just being on the court and my presence is a good thing to have just because I bring a calming presence and try to do my best. I think just me playing a part in everything is just good.”

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Neither squad took a commanding lead early in the second set, though a 5-0 Illinois run put it up by five points to go ahead 8-3. Leading by as many as eight in the frame, the Illini took the second set, 25-19, to take a commanding 2-0 lead. Cooney led Illinois with four kills in the set, while the Illini registered three blocks in the frame.

Looking to avoid a sweep, Michigan jumped out to a 7-4 lead in the third set, though a 6-1 run from Illinois turned the three-point deficit into a two-point advantage. Neither team led by more than three points in the frame, though two different 5-1 Michigan runs saw the Wolverines take the third set in close fashion, 26-24. An unsuccessful Illinois challenge gave Michigan the momentum it needed to cut its deficit in half.

The fourth set was another close, back-and-forth battle, as it included 15 tie scores and seven lead changes. A 5-1 Michigan run midway through the frame saw the visitors take a 14-12 lead, though Illinois used a 6-1 run to pull ahead 18-15. 

The Wolverines weren’t going down without a fight, though, as they went on a 4-0 run to take a 19-18 lead. With Michigan eventually serving for the set and leading 24-23, Illinois used a Cooney kill to tie the set at 24 apiece before a Wolverine service error and a big block from Collins and Diana Brown sealed the 3-1 victory for Illinois.

Illinois was led by Cooney’s match-high 20 kills and 10 digs, while Collins registered eight kills, four service aces and six total blocks. Terry also notched 13 kills, two aces and four total blocks.

After struggling a bit the last few matches, Cooney bounced back with a double-double on Saturday, though she hasn’t let past performances get to her too much.

“‘I’ve been not too down on myself over the last few games, but it definitely felt good to come out tonight … and be able to celebrate on the court with my teammates,” Cooney said.

The Illini return to action on Friday when they take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in Piscataway, New Jersey.



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