Illinois volleyball snaps seven-game losing streak

Illinois%27+Katie+Stadick+hits+the+ball+during+the+match+against+Northwestern+at+Huff+Hall+on+Saturday%2C+October+15.+The+Illini+won+3-0.
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Illinois volleyball snaps seven-game losing streak

Illinois' Katie Stadick hits the ball during the match against Northwestern at Huff Hall on Saturday, October 15. The Illini won 3-0.

Illinois' Katie Stadick hits the ball during the match against Northwestern at Huff Hall on Saturday, October 15. The Illini won 3-0.

Austin Yattoni

Illinois' Katie Stadick hits the ball during the match against Northwestern at Huff Hall on Saturday, October 15. The Illini won 3-0.

Austin Yattoni

Austin Yattoni

Illinois' Katie Stadick hits the ball during the match against Northwestern at Huff Hall on Saturday, October 15. The Illini won 3-0.

By James Boyd, Staff writer

 

This is the last weekend in which the Illinois volleyball team will play at Huff Hall this season, and for the Illini seniors it is final home stretch of their careers.

In the first of two weekend matchups, Illinois defeated Maryland in straight-sets (25-19, 25-19, 27-25). It was the Illini’s first win in nearly a month, and the victory snapped their seven-game losing streak.

“I think we can play better still, but I feel good about the W,” head coach Kevin Hambly said. “I thought we played well for huge chunks of time and pretty steady. It was a good win for us and they tested us in the ways that we needed.”

Illinois had not won a set in three consecutive games, but the team found an offensive rhythm. The Illini posted a .315 hitting percentage and senior Katie Stadick recorded 11 kills behind a team-high .667 hitting percentage.

“It is definitely a confidence booster,” Stadick said. “I felt like the passes were great and it allowed (setter Jordyn Poulter) to just move the ball around really well. That just helped open it up, and it was hard for their defense to be able to stop us just because we were spreading the ball around.”

The Illini went back and forth with the Terrapins in the first set before eventually coming to a tie at 17-17. A Stadick kill put Illinois back in the lead and helped her team finish on an 8-2 run. In the second set, the two teams were tied again, this time at 14 apiece, but the Illini rallied to end the set on an 11-5 run.

Putting Maryland away for good proved to be the toughest test of the night for Illinois. The Illini looked like they were going to cruise to victory, but the Terrapins showed a lot of resiliency late in the match. Illinois led 20-13 before squandering away its lead late in the third set.

The Terrapins mounted a strong comeback and eventually took the lead 25-24, but kills by senior Michelle Strizak and sophomore Ali Bastianelli helped the Illini regain the lead and win the match. Illinois is now 15-13 overall and 8-9 in conference play.

“We kind of put ourselves in that position at the end of the game,” Bastianelli said. “But I thought we kept our composure really well and it really came down to just being on the details at the end of the game and I thought we did a good job of that.”

Bastianelli had a solid outing against Maryland, posting nine kills and a team-high nine block assists. She is currently the NCAA leader in blocks per set with an average of 1.72.

Illinois has less than 24 hours to prepare for No. 24 Ohio State and there is a lot riding on its last home game of the season. The Illini’s matchup with the Buckeyes will serve as Senior Night, and the outcome could make or break their NCAA tournament hopes.

“Ohio State is a good team,” Hambly said. “They just beat (No. 15) Penn State so they’re feeling good. But we need that win. I think our team will be ready for it. This is (the seniors) last shot at this thing and it’s a big deal. We play for the seniors.”

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