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Illinois volleyball splits weekend against Indiana, Purdue

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Illinois volleyball splits weekend against Indiana, Purdue

Michelle Strizak (4) jumps up to serve the ball to Northwestern's territory at Huff Hall on Oct. 15, 2016. Illini beat Northwestern 3-0.

Michelle Strizak (4) jumps up to serve the ball to Northwestern's territory at Huff Hall on Oct. 15, 2016. Illini beat Northwestern 3-0.

Elisabeth Neely

Michelle Strizak (4) jumps up to serve the ball to Northwestern's territory at Huff Hall on Oct. 15, 2016. Illini beat Northwestern 3-0.

Elisabeth Neely

Elisabeth Neely

Michelle Strizak (4) jumps up to serve the ball to Northwestern's territory at Huff Hall on Oct. 15, 2016. Illini beat Northwestern 3-0.

By Jacob Diaz and James Boyd

The last time Illinois and Purdue competed against each other was in West Lafayette, Indiana, and the Illini left Holloway Gymnasium with a five-set victory.

Since then the Boilermakers have gone 2-6 in conference and were looking to redeem themselves against an Illinois squad that is 6-2 in that span.

And Purdue was able to do just that in a five-set victory over Illinois who was coming off a three-set win over Indiana on Friday night.

“Everyone’s coming here trying to get a win,” Hambly said. “Everywhere we go we’re trying to get a win. We don’t worry about the revenge. We just worry about being the best team we can tomorrow.”

Matched up against No. 24 Purdue, the Illini dominated the first set, winning 25-14. But, it wasn’t so much the Illini’s play that won them the set, but the Boilermaker’s 11 errors.

“I think we didn’t play that well (in the first set), actually,” head coach Kevin Hambly said. “They gave us 14 points in that set, we didn’t really earn that one.”

While they served aggressively and hit well early, the Illini were not playing at their highest level. Purdue came out of the gate totally out-of-sync.

That state of mind did not last long, however, as Illinois soon found out. In the second set, the Illini were never able to shake the Boilermakers off their tails, never leading by more than three, but led most of the set. Purdue hung around, and when the score hit 19-17 in favor of the Illini, they pounced, and went on an 8-3 run to close out the set and even the match up at one.

“(Purdue) just got loose offensively, they just started swinging away,” outside hitter Michelle Strizak said. “And then at the same time they started to play really scrappy.”

The third set was the most tightly contested of the match, the teams tied the score 11 times, but the Illini did enough to stay ahead of the Boilermakers for the entire set, save one point. The Illini spread the ball offensively, with five players recording kills in the set, and were able to play smart and capitalize on the mistakes that Purdue made during the set.

Ali Bastianelli took the block out of the picture with a soft attempt, and when it was returned to her she had a clear shot and slammed it home. Katie Stadick found herself a clear lane later in the set as the Illini began to pick up steam, and Michelle Strizak had a heads-up kill on an overpass by Purdue as the Illini closed the set out.

Hambly was much more pleased with the Illini’s effort in the third set.

“We didn’t really earn (the first set), but we did in the third,” Hambly said. “They were very physical, and they played at a high level, and we didn’t match that level, except in the third set.”

Set four initially looked quite like set three, with the Illini fighting their way to a 12-10 lead, but from that point on it was all Purdue. The Boilermakers won the next five points, and finished the set with an incredible 15-4 run that seemed to take the life out of the Illini.

Purdue’s block resumed pestering the Illini hitters, the back line dug shot after shot, and Purdue simply executed at a higher level than the Illini did from the middle of set four onwards.

In the decisive fifth set, the Illini showed that they had some fight left in them, but it was too little too late as the Boilermakers ran away with the set and the match.

“They executed better than we did,” Hambly said. “They dug a ton of balls. They took it from us. They made plays and they beat us. We didn’t execute the way we wanted to on defense, we didn’t make changes there. It was disappointing.”

 

A three-set victory over Indiana

 

A balanced offensive attack and stout defensive performance by the Illini sent the Hoosiers home with a staright sets loss (25-18, 25-19, 25-20). It was their second consecutive loss and seventh Big Ten loss overall.

Senior Allison Hammond leads Indiana in kills this season with 253 including 11 against Illinois, but she only managed to record a .209 hitting percentage. The Hoosiers as whole could only muster up a .148 team hitting percentage against an Illini defense that was anchored by junior Brandi Donnelly. Donnelly recorded a team-high 16 digs.

Hambly was pleased with his team’s effort defensively.

“When we look at the defense, we look at what (the opponents) hit against us, what they’re hitting efficiency is.” Hambly said. “We held them under 150 which is pretty good. You know, I think they got some stuff going in the third. But otherwise I thought we played really good, defensive volleyball.”

Hambly added that Indiana is a team that’s tough to prepare for because of how fast it runs its offense, but for the third match in a row Illinois held its opponent to a hitting percentage lower than .200.

On the offensive side of things, the Illini didn’t win any set against the Hoosiers by double-figures. Each game was relatively close from start to finish and several players chipped in offensively so that Illinois could earn its fifth straight-sets victory in Big Ten play.

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