Illinois volleyball welcomes No. 11 Penn State to mark halfway point in Big Ten season

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Sydney Laput

Junior outside hitter Raina Terry celebrates with her teammates after the team scored a point against Northwestern on Sept. 24.

By Drew Friberg, Sports Editor

After its third sweep loss in a row to a top-10 opponent, Illinois volleyball will continue to look for its first ranked win of the season on Wednesday night against No. 11 Penn State. The Illini’s match Wednesday marks the halfway point in Big Ten play, as they sit at 4-6.

Illinois is just two weeks and three days past the two teams’ previous meeting, in which the Illini were swept 3-0. This time around, practice remains similar to before. Despite the loss, the Illini kept it close in each set, losing two sets by a 22-25 scoreline.

“I don’t think we’re doing anything different,” junior outside hitter Raina Terry said. “We’re just trying to be more efficient at what we did last time.”

Higher efficiency in University Park on Oct. 9 could’ve given the Illini their first ranked win of the season. The Nittany Lions tallied more errors than the Illini (22-16), but over the course of the match, outhit the Illini (.231%-.169%). This was one of the Illini’s least efficient matches of the season.

Since that match, the Nittany Lions have climbed two spots in the national rankings and gone 3-1. Iowa and Maryland both took sets off of Penn State while the Nittany Lions were away from home, but they weathered each storm accordingly, only dropping a match to No. 2 Nebraska.

While Illinois has been dropping matches to top opposition, other underdogs have been putting in the work. Unranked Iowa State knocked off national juggernauts and previously No. 1 Texas last week, while No. 7 Pitt took down No. 2 Louisville and unranked Texas A&M swept No. 16 Kentucky. In a ludicrous point in the season, head coach Chris Tamas likes his chances on Wednesday night with a few faces returning to play.

“I like to join in on the (upset) party when the party is happening,” Tamas joked. “It’s just the time of the year where it is tough. We’re about two-thirds of the way through (the season). It gets to the point where you pick up some injuries, but we’re going the other way right now. We’re getting a little bit healthier.”

Wednesday night’s match is the Illini’s second chance at victory against the Nittany Lions. Huff Hall welcomes action beginning at 6 p.m. as Illinois looks to snap its three-match loss streak.

 

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