Illinois volleyball loses fourth straight match

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Illinois volleyball loses fourth straight match

Illinois opposite hitter Naya Crittenden gets ready to spike the ball during the match against Arkansas at Huff Hall on Friday, August 26. The Illini won 3-0.

Illinois opposite hitter Naya Crittenden gets ready to spike the ball during the match against Arkansas at Huff Hall on Friday, August 26. The Illini won 3-0.

Illinois opposite hitter Naya Crittenden gets ready to spike the ball during the match against Arkansas at Huff Hall on Friday, August 26. The Illini won 3-0.

Illinois opposite hitter Naya Crittenden gets ready to spike the ball during the match against Arkansas at Huff Hall on Friday, August 26. The Illini won 3-0.

By James Boyd, Staff writer

 

Illinois senior Naya Crittenden played at Oregon for two years before leaving the Ducks to join the Illini.

She competed in 59 matches under Oregon head coach Jim Moore, racking up 231 kills and 64 blocks. Despite starting fewer games, Crittenden’s statistics with the Ducks increased significantly from her freshman to sophomore year, but it still wasn’t enough to keep her around.

Friday in the Nike Invitational, Crittenden returned to Matthew Knight Arena.

Earlier in the week Crittenden said her main focus was to get her team back in the win column, and that she would treat the match like a “business trip.” When the up official blew the whistle to start the first set, it was clear that Oregon shared the same sentiments.

The Ducks defeated the Illini in straight sets, and never trailed by more than a point the entire night. It took just 74 minutes for Oregon to hand Illinois its fourth straight loss.

“We, as a team, just fell apart,” Crittenden said. “And you can see it in that first match.”

Oregon jumped out to a quick 6-1 lead. Illinois head coach Kevin Hambly was forced to call his first timeout to try and stop the momentum, but when play resumed the Ducks continued their onslaught.  At one point the score was 17-3 in favor of Oregon, and shortly thereafter the first set was over. Illinois lost 10-25.

In the second set, Illinois was much more resilient. About halfway through the game, the Illini held the lead twice thanks to kills from sophomore Ali Bastianelli and freshman Jacqueline Quade.

A service error from sophomore setter Jordyn Poulter relinquished Illinois’ brief lead, and the team was unable to show much synergy in the latter stages of the set. Oregon would go on to win 25-18.

“We were just hoping that we could figure it out and come back in that second one,” Crittenden said. ”It looked like it was picking up just a little bit, but we just didn’t gain enough momentum to push it over the edge. It’s kind of like trying to get a bike over a hill. You’re pedaling as hard as you can, and it just isn’t working.”

The third set mirrored that of the second for both teams. Illinois hung around early, but after Oregon broke a 5-5 tie, there was no need for a fourth set. The Ducks handed the Illini another seven-point loss, and their first straight sets defeat of the season.

Poulter tallied just 23 assists on the night after averaging 48 assists in the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge last week. The sophomore also recorded a career-high nine kills against Colorado one week ago, but managed only three against Oregon.

“We don’t know what our mojo is yet,” Poulter said. “I think we’re all frustrated in different ways. Losing is frustrating, but like I said we’re very focused on moving forward and just really trying to find ourselves these next few matches.”

Illinois will have a chance to snap its four-game skid later Saturday with matches against Belmont and Saint Mary’s to round out the Nike Invitational.

“(We need to improve on) everything,” Hambly said. “Every single phase.”

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