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Consistency remains an issue as Illini fall to No. 2 Badgers

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Consistency remains an issue as Illini fall to No. 2 Badgers

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

Austin Yattoni

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

Austin Yattoni

Austin Yattoni

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

By Jacob Diaz, Staff Writer

When the Illinois volleyball team tipped off against the No. 2 Wisconsin Badgers on Saturday night in Madison, Wisconsin, the team came out flat.

Looking unprepared mentally and out-matched on the court, the Illini lost the first set, 25-15. The Badgers looked sharp, defensively sound and aggressive in their attacks.

However, by the time the final point of the second set dropped, Illinois was back in the game with a 25-18 set win.

“We served more aggressively (in the second set),” head coach Kevin Hambly said. “We passed better. We got more into our rhythm of how we normally want to play and played our kind of volleyball.”

In the third set, the Illini looked to take charge again, taking a commanding six-point lead at 23-17. But, coming out of a Wisconsin timeout, things began to fall apart for the Illini. The passing, defense and organization all began to fail as the Badgers went on a 9-1 run to steal the set and reclaim the momentum of the match.

“That was one of the most frustrating games,” opposite hitter Naya Crittenden said. “I can’t even tell you why (the team gave away the third set). That just comes down to executing.”

While the Illini continued to fight through the fourth set, they were never able to rediscover the form that they had in the second set, and the Badgers took set four and the match.

For the Illini, consistency continues to be a major issue.

“After the game, we talked about working on our mental game and continuing to play like we had early on in the third set,” Crittenden said. “I don’t know why we did anything different, we should have just kept executing. It was the same in the fourth set (as the third), there were little bits where we let up and weren’t doing the things that worked, that made us successful at the beginning.”

In middle blocker Ali Bastianelli’s mind, that consistency is one of the key factors separating the Illini from top teams like Nebraska and Wisconsin.

“I think when we’re on, we can beat anyone,” Bastianelli said. “We can rally with anyone, we can play with anyone, it’s just maintaining that level of consistency.”

Crittenden had a strong performance, leading the team with 13 kills and hitting at a .310 clip. But she also been inconsistent.

“One thing I know with myself is that sometime I get tunnel vision in games,” Crittenden said. “If I’m not playing well or I don’t start well, I get tunnel vision and forget to do some things that I know how to do.”

 

The Illini were frustrated after the game to have fought so hard and come out of Madison without anything to show for it. But libero Brandi Donnelly came away with a positive outlook.

“I thought we played well,” Donnelly said.“We were playing some of our best volleyball at certain points, but it comes down to the end of games and being able to finish.”

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@Jacob_Diaz31

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