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Quade continues to struggle for Illinois volleyball

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Quade continues to struggle for Illinois volleyball

Jacqueline Quade (7) and Ali Bastianelli (5) jump up together to block the spike from Northwestern at Huff Hall on Oct. 15, 2016. Illini beat Northwestern 3-0.

Jacqueline Quade (7) and Ali Bastianelli (5) jump up together to block the spike from Northwestern at Huff Hall on Oct. 15, 2016. Illini beat Northwestern 3-0.

Elisabeth Neely

Jacqueline Quade (7) and Ali Bastianelli (5) jump up together to block the spike from Northwestern at Huff Hall on Oct. 15, 2016. Illini beat Northwestern 3-0.

Elisabeth Neely

Elisabeth Neely

Jacqueline Quade (7) and Ali Bastianelli (5) jump up together to block the spike from Northwestern at Huff Hall on Oct. 15, 2016. Illini beat Northwestern 3-0.

By James Boyd, Staff writer

Freshman Jacqueline Quade began her Illinois volleyball career with a team-high 15 kills against Arkansas earlier this season.

The Illini earned a straight-sets victory behind Quade’s strong performance, and in the team’s following match, the freshman didn’t let up.

She recorded another 15 kills against Xavier, and Illinois was again victorious at home. In the first six matches of the season, Quade recorded double-digit kills, including a 10-kill and eight-dig performance against No. 9 Stanford.

Quade’s offensive prowess continued in Illinois’s opening Big Ten match at No. 10 Purdue, helping the Illini win a nailbiter. Quade posted 13 kills in the five-set thriller.

Her hot start would carry on against Rutgers, Nebraska and Maryland — helping Illinois to a 3-1 conference record.

But now, the Illini are on a five-match losing streak, and Quade is averaging just over five kills per match during the skid. She recorded a season-low three kills and -.080 hitting percentage against Michigan last weekend.

Head coach Kevin Hambly did not speak specifically about Quade but did mention that his coaching staff will need to improve.

“We need to do a good job as a staff of getting them ready to play throughout the week,” Hambly said. “We need to get them to handle the ball better and scrap on defense and fight. I just think as a staff we can do a better job of getting them ready, especially me.”

Illini continue up and down season

It has been a season of highs and lows for the Illini. As of right now, they are .500 against Big Ten competition.

Illinois lost four consecutive matches early on in the year, including a straight-sets loss to Oregon at the Nike Invitational. Following the lopsided defeat by the Ducks, the Illini reeled off seven-straight victories and looked as if their early struggles were a thing of the past.

The win-streak ended against No. 1 Nebraska, but the Illini bounced back with a two-match win streak. Once again, the team could not sustain success, dropping its last five matches. The Illini haven’t been victorious since defeating Indiana on Oct. 21 in straight-sets at home.

“I think we just are looking at the next game ahead of us,” said senior McKenna Kelsay. “We know that we have to have a little bit of a sense of urgency here. But we’re really just looking forward to this week of practice and that’s it. We don’t want to look too far ahead.”

Illinois is 4-2 in the Big Ten this season at home and 3-5 on the road. Kelsay added that being in a familiar environment for the next four matches can only help the team. But she made it clear that home court advantage is not a big deal.

“You get used to traveling somewhere,” Kelsay said. “(The Big Ten schedule) is really a grind, and we have to fight through that (even) if we’re tired. (We) try not to focus on the fact that we’re traveling, and that we’re going place to place because that ultimately shouldn’t really matter.”

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