The Daily Illini

Comeback effort extends win streak

Illinois+outside+hitter+Jacqueline+Quade+spikes+the+ball+during+the+match+against+Michigan+at+Huff+Hall+on+Oct.+19.+The+Illini+won+3-2.
Illinois outside hitter Jacqueline Quade spikes the ball during the match against Michigan at Huff Hall on Oct. 19. The Illini won 3-2.

Illinois outside hitter Jacqueline Quade spikes the ball during the match against Michigan at Huff Hall on Oct. 19. The Illini won 3-2.

Austin Yattoni

Austin Yattoni

Illinois outside hitter Jacqueline Quade spikes the ball during the match against Michigan at Huff Hall on Oct. 19. The Illini won 3-2.

By Brian Binz, Staff Writer

About one month ago, the Illinois volleyball team lost its first two games of the year against No. 9 Nebraska and No. 7 Wisconsin in Huff Hall.

The Illini have avenged their only home losses of the year over the last two weekends, including a four-set win over last year’s national champions, the Cornhuskers, on Saturday. The Illini started where they left off against Nebraska and rallied from a 24-22 deficit to force three more set points before eventually dropping the set 29-27. However, after that, Illinois was done losing.

“I told them we made a few too many errors, kinda shot ourselves in the foot,” said head coach Chris Tamas. “We wanted to get after them; that’s been our mantra all year, to keep attacking. Playing in front of and silencing a crowd like that — it’s a great feeling.”

The Illini won the next three sets, starting with a dominant 25-19 win in set two. Illinois fell behind early before a five-point run, but two later three-point runs allowed the Illini to pull away, setting up an important third set.

The third set resembled the first more than the second, with both teams exchanging points before an 8-2 run that gave the Illini a 22-19 lead late in the set. The lead didn’t last, as Nebraska rallied to take a 23-22 advantage and forced Tamas to take his last timeout.

“I’m not a fan of calling timeouts just because we have them,” Tamas said. “It was about setting up the right play, getting a good swing and setting up the next defensive play.”

After the timeout, the Illini finished the set with three straight points capped off by two kills from junior outside hitter Jacqueline Quade, part of her match-high 23-kill night that also saw 13 digs.

Quade wasn’t the only cornerstone for the Illini; the team saw contributions from several team members. 

Jordyn Poulter racked up 49 assists, 18 digs and three blocks. Ali Bastianelli picked up 10 kills on a team-high .348 hitting percentage and five blocks. Yet, the biggest performance of the night came from the Illini backline, with freshman defensive specialist Taylor Kuper and sophomore libero Morgan O’Brien both picking up career-highs in digs.

O’Brien had 32 digs and Kuper had 25, leading an Illini defense that stifled the Cornhuskers all night. Nebraska was held to a .099 hitting percentage as a team compared to Illinois’ .187.

“It was a fight the whole time; everyone was super scrappy,” O’Brien said. “We were picking up a lot of balls we wouldn’t have previously picked up.”

The Illini finished off the Huskers in the fourth set, again finishing the set with three straight points to pull away from a 22-22 deadlock.

The win gave the Illini their fifth-straight victory and boosted their record to 20-3. However, for the Illini, the most important part of the win was seeing the improvement.

“We’ve been improving every week; the proof is in the pudding,” Tamas said.

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