Illinois volleyball falls to Illinois State and No. 19 Marquette in final nonconference games of season

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Photo courtesy of Andy Wenstrand

Middle blocker Kennedy Collins goes for a spike against Villanova on Sept. 10. The Illini suffered a 2-3 loss during the last two nonconference matches of the season on Saturday.

By Adam Rosen, Contributing Writer

No. 25 Illinois (5-3) traveled to Milwaukee, Wisc., for two matches against the Illinois State Redbirds (6-3) and the No. 19 Marquette Golden Eagles (7-1) for their final nonconference games of the season. 

The first match was scheduled at 10 a.m. against the Redbirds, where Illinois found itself in a 2-0 (25-20, 25-21) deficit after a rough start. But the Illini came back to make it 2-2 (25-13, 25-23), led by senior outside hitter Jessica Nunge and junior outside hitter Raina Terry with 16 and 18 kills, respectively, in the first four sets. 

The fifth set started as a back and forth, but the Redbirds started to take over as they won the fifth set 15-9 to win the match (3-2) over the Illini. Terry and Nunge were the top performers for the Illini. Illinois State moved to 7-3 on the season, and Illini head coach Chris Tamas gave praise to the Redbirds after the tough loss. 

“Illinois State is a good team, (and) they have been for the last several years,” Tamas said. “That’s why we wanted to play them.” 

A couple of hours after the tough loss to Illinois State, the Illini went up against a fellow top-25 team in Marquette at 6 p.m. Tamas said the mindset was to rest up.

“Turn around and get it going again,” Tamas said. “Last time this happened a few years ago, we came back out and beat the same team, so we hope it’s the same history.”

Against the Golden Eagles, the Illini are 6-0 in program history, with the last matchup being in 2019, in the Redbird Classic. Both teams were ranked then as they are now. 

Illinois started strong as Terry and Nunge recorded 6 and 5 kills respectively leading the Illini to a 25-23 first-set win. However, the second set did not go as smoothly for the Illini, as Marquette responded with a 25-20 win in the second set. 

The third set went to the Illini in dominant fashion as senior middle blocker Kennedy Collins led the team alongside Terry and Nunge, with the Illini winning 25-13 to take a 2-1 set lead. The fourth set was almost a mirrored image of the second set, as Marquette was able to take it 25-19, not allowing the Illini to get back in it, forcing a fifth set.

The fifth set was a battle as both the Illini and Golden Eagles fought back and forth trying to take the match. Unfortunately for the Illini, Marquette was able to take the match after a 15-11 win in the fifth and final set, as Illinois closed out their non-conference schedule with back-to-back losses.

“We knew it was going to be a tough pre-conference,” said Tamas. “We had to challenge ourselves to learn about what we’ve gotta do better, there’s a lot of things I’m very pleased about and a lot of things I’m not.” 

The Illini will head into Big Ten play with a 5-5 record, as they will host Maryland on Friday at Huff Hall.

 

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