Poulter goes home, but Illinois loses to Stanford

Illinois%27+Michelle+Strizak+spikes+the+ball+past+Northwestern%27s+block+during+the+volleyball+game+against+Northwestern+at+Huff+Hall+on+Saturday.+Strizak+finished+with+six+kills.%C2%A0
Back to Article
Back to Article

Poulter goes home, but Illinois loses to Stanford

Illinois' Michelle Strizak spikes the ball past Northwestern's block during the volleyball game against Northwestern at Huff Hall on Saturday. Strizak finished with six kills. 

Illinois' Michelle Strizak spikes the ball past Northwestern's block during the volleyball game against Northwestern at Huff Hall on Saturday. Strizak finished with six kills. 

Illinois' Michelle Strizak spikes the ball past Northwestern's block during the volleyball game against Northwestern at Huff Hall on Saturday. Strizak finished with six kills. 

Illinois' Michelle Strizak spikes the ball past Northwestern's block during the volleyball game against Northwestern at Huff Hall on Saturday. Strizak finished with six kills. 

By James Boyd, Staff writer

The Illinois volleyball team hit the road for the first time this season to face No.9 Stanford in the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge.

Entering Friday night, the Illini were 0-7 all-time against the Cardinal, and a 1-3 all-time in the tournament.

After a back-and-fourth five set match, Stanford made sure that neither record turned in Illinois’ favor.

“I think we competed well and hard,” head coach Kevin Hambly said. “We just didn’t execute well. We weren’t discipline at times. We were affected by some things that you hope you don’t get affected by. But I thought this was a really good match for us.”

In the first set, Illinois looked as if it was ready to rebound from its disappointing end in the Illini Classic. Senior Michelle Strizak scored the opening point of the match with a kill, and helped push the Illini out to an early 7-4 lead.

Stanford head coach John Dunning called a quick timeout to help his team regroup, and when play resumed, the Cardinal responded with a 5-0 run of their own.

The momentum Illinois had established early on in the match vanished in a matter of minutes, and for the rest of the set, neither team looked like it could pull away from the other.

Stanford eventually edged out to a 21-20 lead, but a kill by standout freshman Jacqueline Quade knotted things up again. Four points away from victory, it was any team’s set for the taking.

Stanford showed the most fortitude in the latter stages of the set. Blocks by the Cardinal’s 6-foot-6 freshman Audriana Fitzmorris put the Illini in an 0-1 hole.

In the second set, Illinois bounced back behind strong performances from senior Naya Crittenden and Strizak. The seniors each recorded six kills and five kills respectively, helping their team avoid its first 0-2 deficit of the season in a 25-19 victory.

The first two matches would not serve as a barometer for the third. Fitzmorris recorded a couple early kills to help the Cardinal out to an early 5-1 lead. From then on out, Stanford dominated Illinois on its way to a 25-12 win.

“I think things got away from us a little bit,” Hambly said of the lopsided loss. “They had some weird plays where they scored early and got a big lead. I think we pressed a little bit and made more errors and got a little bit impatient trying to score too soon.”

Sophomore Jordyn Poulter said that her team settled in a lot more during the fourth set.

“After the third set we realized what we needed to take care of,” Poulter said. “In the fourth set we were resilient in that way, and really honed in on the things we had talked about.”

Stanford would go on to win the final set 15-12. The two teams shared the lead three times, but the Illini only led once.

The loss dropped Illinois to 2-2 on the season, and in her home state, Poulter was unable to lead her team to victory.

Illinois’ standout setter said she enjoyed having her parents in the stands to watch her play, but expects her team to get back in the win column against Colorado.

“We just need to stay focused on our side,” Poulter said. “It’s about out execution and how we manage ourselves. I think that will be the key for us.”

[email protected]

@RomeovilleKid