Illini sweep Panthers in in-state duel

The+Illinois+volleyball+team+huddle+on+the+court+during+the+match+against+Colorado+on+Sept.+3.+The+Illini+swept+Eastern+Illinois%2C+3-0%2C+on+Wednesday.+

Photo courtesy of Andy Wenstrand/Illinois Athletics

The Illinois volleyball team huddle on the court during the match against Colorado on Sept. 3. The Illini swept Eastern Illinois, 3-0, on Wednesday.

By Adam Rosen, Contributing Writer

No. 25 Illinois volleyball (4-3) traveled south to Charleston, Ill., to take on the Eastern Illinois Panthers (5-5) in one of its final nonconference matches of the season. The Illini won in straight sets (25-15, 25-23, 25-22).

The Illini came into Wednesday night on a three-match win streak and extended it to four with their win over the Panthers. Illinois now leads the all-time series 20-4, with tonight being their first match since 2005.

Standouts for the Illini were sophomore libero Caroline Barnes, who led the match in digs with 21, redshirt senior setter Diana Brown, who led with 37 assists, and senior outside hitter Jessica Nunge led with 14 kills and four service aces. Nunge was a huge factor in closing out the final two sets, letting her energy fuel the team and leading by example.

“My teammates tell me that when I scream it fires them up,” Nunge said. “The team is so fired up, and we’re ready to compete.”

The Illini took the first set in dominant fashion, with a final score of 25-15. Sophomore opposite Kayla Burbage (4) and junior outside hitter Raina Terry (3) led the team in kills for set one. 

The second set was much closer, as Eastern Illinois led most of the way, but Illinois clawed its way back, to take it 25-23. Nunge had her best set, with an ace and 3 kills in crunch time to help close it out. 

The third set looked as if Illinois would dominate, but the Panthers made a late comeback to put the pressure on the Illini. However, Nunge took over again, finishing the match off with a 25-22 win in the third set. 

Despite the win, Illinois head coach Chris Tamas was impressed with Eastern Illinois’ ability to fight back in the last two sets, as well as with his own team’s coolness under pressure.

“I’m proud of the way we responded,” Tamas said. “You’ve gotta have a short-term memory in this game, still have to be smart.”

The Illini hope to take their momentum from this match into Milwaukee, where they will close out their nonconference schedule against the Illinois State Redbirds and the No. 19 Marquette Golden Eagles.

 

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