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Illinois swept by No. 1 Penn State at home

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Illinois swept by No. 1 Penn State at home

Illinois setter Jordyn Poulter (1) jumps up to set the ball during the match against Purdue at Huff Hall on Friday, October 6. The Illini lost 3-0.

Illinois setter Jordyn Poulter (1) jumps up to set the ball during the match against Purdue at Huff Hall on Friday, October 6. The Illini lost 3-0.

Austin Yattoni

Illinois setter Jordyn Poulter (1) jumps up to set the ball during the match against Purdue at Huff Hall on Friday, October 6. The Illini lost 3-0.

Austin Yattoni

Austin Yattoni

Illinois setter Jordyn Poulter (1) jumps up to set the ball during the match against Purdue at Huff Hall on Friday, October 6. The Illini lost 3-0.

By Meghan Rest, Staff writer

The Illinois women’s volleyball team proved they could battle with the best, but they couldn’t beat the best.

The Illini put up a fight in the first set – almost pulling off the upset – but they lost 30-28. The Illini then felt the heat from the No. 1 ranked Nittany Lions.

Penn State controlled each of the following sets — winning 25-11 and 25-15 — to sweep Illinois in Champaign Saturday night.

The defeat drops No. 23 Illinois to 16-7 overall and 7-5 in the Big Ten.

In the first set, the Illini registered 18 kills, nearly rivaling the Nittany Lions 20. They hit a game-high .283 percent while holding Penn State to .326 percent. Each team ended the set with 46 total offensive attempts and five errors.

Head coach Chris Tamas said Penn State separated itself from Illinois after the first set, flexing its veteran muscle on the Illini’s home court.

“I think we talked about it a lot between two and three,” Tamas said. “They’re a very senior-heavy team and they’re all-American seniors at that. It was a good lesson for us, how a good team keeps competing and keeps coming at you.”

Spectators at Huff saw two overturned calls land in favor of Illinois, in addition to a slew of wild balls that flew into the crowd. According to Tamas, the Illini lost when they attempted to match their opponent’s playing style.

“I think we felt after that set, we had to do more somehow,” Tamas said. “I told them again in between two and three we don’t have to do more, we don’t have to do any different. We just have to keep executing well as we go along this match.”

Junior setter Jordyn Poulter, who led the Illini with 34 assists, said she saw her teammates get flustered when they tried to duplicate Penn State’s game.

“We didn’t play how we do day-to-day,” Poulter said. “They bounce balls, and we tried to replicate that and make it a bouncing game, and unfortunately their clock was a little more solid.”

Despite the Illini’s sweep at home, sophomore Jacqueline Quade capitalized on offense. She led the Illini with 16 total kills on a .406 hitting percentage. She said Penn State ultimately played at a different level than Illinois.

“They’re a team that’s going to bounce balls a lot,” Quade said. “We’re not necessarily the same (physically) as them, so I think we were trying to match them bouncing it. That’s not our play and that’s not who we are. So (we need to try) to stick with what we know.”

Although Illinois put up a fight in the first set, Tamas said it came down to Penn State simply being the better team.

“They played better. They’re the No. 1 ranked team in the country for a reason,” Tamas said. “When you play those teams — we played a couple weeks ago against Nebraska — they keep coming at you, and they come at you hard. They serve tough the whole match through. We have a few things that usually work for us, and they stopped it.”

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@meghan_rest

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