Illinois volleyball sweeps Dayton Invitational, picks up three wins

Mar+9%2C+2022%3B+Champaign%2C+Illinois%2C+United+States%3B+freshman+defensive+specialist+Becca+Sakoda+%2817%29+of+the+Illinois+Fighting+Illini+during+the+scrimmage+between+the+Br%C3%B8ndby+Volleyball+Klub+and+the+Illinois+Fighting+Illini+at+Huff+Hall.+Illinois+won%2C+3-1.+Photo+by+Andy+Wenstrand.

Photo courtesy of Andy Wenstrand/Illini Athletics

Mar 9, 2022; Champaign, Illinois, United States; freshman defensive specialist Becca Sakoda (17) of the Illinois Fighting Illini during the scrimmage between the Brøndby Volleyball Klub and the Illinois Fighting Illini at Huff Hall. Illinois won, 3-1. Photo by Andy Wenstrand.

By Drew Friberg, Sports Editor

A three match weekend in Dayton ended in Illini triumph, as Illinois took down Missouri State 3-1 (23-25, 25-14, 25-11, 25-18), Villanova 3-0 (25-16, 25-9, 25-16) and tournament hosts Dayton, 3-0 (25-17, 25-23, 25-22).

Illinois’ bounce-back weekend pushed it to 4-3 on the season, the first winning record the Illini have had in 2022.

Junior outside hitter Raina Terry continued her standout season, averaging 13 kills per game and managing the team-high kill count for the weekend, with 16 over Dayton on Saturday.

Redshirt senior setter Diana Brown ended the weekend as the tournament MVP, with 116 assists, 21 digs and 8 aces in the three matches, while Terry and sophomore defensive specialist Caroline Barnes made the All-Tournament team.

Senior middle blocker Kennedy Collins also returned to the starting lineup against the Bears after three matches out due to injury. While easing back in, she managed four kills in six attempts and one block assist.

Missouri State put up the biggest fight of the weekend, as the Bears came out fighting in set one. Dropping set one narrowly, the Illini came back and won three sets in a row, thanks to some elite serving from the whole roster. Serves were a big focus in practice this past week, and the work paid off in the match.

Notching 18 aces as a team against the Bears, the Illini set a program record on Friday for most aces in one match. Terry led the team with seven aces, and redshirt freshman setter Brooke Mosher followed with four.

“We pride ourselves on being a good serving team, but I still think we can hit some better serves than that,” head coach Chris Tamas said. “But we had some really nice service rounds.”

In taking on Villanova, Tamas made some lineup changes. Sophomore libero Becca Sakoda made her first start for the program, and senior middle blocker Kyla Swanson checked back in for Collins.

Sakoda’s first start came as a surprise to her. She credits her teammates for helping her feel comfortable in the starting lineup.

“I wasn’t really expecting it,” Sakoda said. “But I’m glad my team was supporting me…and that’s what made me play like I did.”

In the Illini’s rout of the Wildcats, Sakoda managed two assists and one dig, while helping her team to the 3-0 sweep. Terry also impressed, as she ended the match with 12 kills, hitting at .391%. 

One impressive sweep on Saturday led to another, and the Illini managed to close out the weekend with another sweep over tournament hosts Dayton.

Brown earned her second double double of the season, with 37 assists and 12 digs over the Flyers. Terry was the kill leader yet again, as she ended with 16 kills in 42 attempts. While not as efficient as other games, Terry’s performances have helped the Illini to a winning record for the first time this season.

Illinois will look to capitalize on this momentum as it enters the final week of the preseason. Eastern Illinois are the team’s next opponents, as the Panthers are set to host the Illini on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

 

@DrewFriberg9

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