No. 25 Illinois volleyball struggles to find consistency on offense, falls to No. 10 Ohio State in three sets

Megan+Cooney+prepares+for+an+incoming+serve+during+No.+25+Illinois+3-0+win+over+Indiana+on+Friday+at+Huff+Hall.+The+Illini+fell+to+the+No.+10+Ohio+State+Buckeyes+in+three+sets+on+Sunday+afternoon.

Angel Saldivar

Megan Cooney prepares for an incoming serve during No. 25 Illinois’ 3-0 win over Indiana on Friday at Huff Hall. The Illini fell to the No. 10 Ohio State Buckeyes in three sets on Sunday afternoon.

By Jackson Janes, Sports Editor

No. 25 Illinois fell in three sets to No. 10 Ohio State at Huff Hall on Sunday afternoon after the Buckeyes used a balanced offensive attack and dominant defense to leave Champaign with a ranked win.

Graduate student outside hitter Megan Cooney led the Illini with 11 kills and four blocks, while junior middle blocker Kyla Swanson registered seven kills and three blocks in her return after missing three matches.

Illinois got off to a fast start via a kill from Cooney and back-to-back blocks from Cooney and Swanson to open up an early 3-1 lead.

“I think getting a block is the most rewarding play in volleyball,” Cooney said. “Starting off the bat with a couple blocks is huge, and I think it just started the game off with a lot of momentum on our side.”

Neither team could really pull ahead, with the largest lead in the set being a 20-17 advantage for the Illini late in the frame. But, the Buckeyes proceeded to use a 7-2 run to go up 24-22 and serve for the set point.

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    After Illinois fought off set point three different times, Ohio State used a big kill and a block to win the first set, 27-25, and open up an early 1-0 lead.

    The second set wasn’t as back and forth. After trading points early, Ohio State used an 8-2 run to go up by seven before using a separate 7-1 run to lead by 11 late in the frame.

    With the Buckeyes serving for the set, the Illini fought off four set points on two errors and two kills from junior outside hitter Jessica Nunge before ultimately falling, 25-18. 

    Ohio State’s defense proved a challenge for Illinois, as the Buckeyes frequently found a way to keep rallies alive via a diving dig or random hand thrown at the ball.

    “I thought overall we were smart with shots, but Ohio State played good defense, and sometimes you can’t control that,” said head coach Chris Tamas. “You just gotta keep doing your best to take big swings and go for big points.”

    Looking to avoid a sweep, Illinois opened the third set with a quick 4-1 lead via kills from Swanson, an ace from redshirt junior setter Diana Brown and a kill from sophomore outside hitter Raina Terry.

    The Buckeyes quickly battled back with a 4-1 run of their own, tying the set at 6-6. After Illinois went up by as many as 3 late in the set and led 19-16, Ohio State went on a 5-1 run to take a 21-20 lead, their first of the set.

    Though the Illini kept it close the entire set and tied the set at 22-22, the Buckeyes closed the set with a 3-1 run to complete the sweep, their second sweep of a ranked team this season.

    “We were shooting ourselves in the foot a couple too many times,” Tamas said. “Good teams are going to force you to play your best, and if you don’t come out with your best, it’s going to be tough to get a win. We had a couple sets where we were in contention in the final couple points, but we gotta be able to turn the big points in those big moments.”

    Illinois will travel to Bloomington to take on Indiana on Friday night.

     

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