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Illinois takes care of Eastern Michigan in first round

Illinois+defensive+specialist+Megan+O%27Brien+%2816%29+passes+the+ball+during+the+match+against+Eastern+Michigan+at+Huff+Hall+on+Friday%2C+Nov.+30%2C+2018.+The+Illini+won+3-0.
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Illinois takes care of Eastern Michigan in first round

Illinois defensive specialist Megan O'Brien (16) passes the ball during the match against Eastern Michigan at Huff Hall on Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. The Illini won 3-0.

Illinois defensive specialist Megan O'Brien (16) passes the ball during the match against Eastern Michigan at Huff Hall on Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. The Illini won 3-0.

Austin Yattoni

Illinois defensive specialist Megan O'Brien (16) passes the ball during the match against Eastern Michigan at Huff Hall on Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. The Illini won 3-0.

Austin Yattoni

Austin Yattoni

Illinois defensive specialist Megan O'Brien (16) passes the ball during the match against Eastern Michigan at Huff Hall on Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. The Illini won 3-0.


Another packed crowd filled Huff Hall but this time Illinois volleyball team’s season was on the line against Eastern Michigan. Nevertheless, to senior setter Jordyn Poulter, it felt like just another game for the Illinois women’ volleyball team.

“I’m gonna be honest it felt like a preseason tournament,” Poulter said. “The way we handle ourselves every day is just taking it one day at a time, so when we stepped out on the floor it was just like our routine.

The Illini swept the Eagles, and as far as sweeps have gone for the Illini this year, this one fit the usual mold.

It started with a dominant first set, where the Illini jumped out to a 19-9 lead and then finished the set off 25-14.

The second was about as same as the first, with Illinois pulling away mid-set and taking another double digit win, 25-9.

Eastern Michigan showed more fight in the third set, but in the end it wasn’t enough as the Illini finished off the sweep with a 25-20 win.
The Illini offense was efficient and punishing, with 36 kills on .455 hitting percentage.

Juniors Jacqueline Quade and Ashlyn Fleming led the way with eight kills each, and both of them hit over .400. They also got three or more kills from four others, Poulter, Bastianelli, Megan Cooney, and Beth Prince.
Senior Jordyn Poulter was a force as usual, with 24 assists to go with three kills on three attempts.

“When I have the opportunity to attack that means we are really passing well,” Poulter said. “Our hitters are executing and performing, so it’s a win-win whether decide to take it over or set them.”

While the offense put up numbers, the Illini defense was equally strong, holding Eastern Michigan to just a .066 hitting percentage, and after the second set the Eagles were hitting a negative percentage. Ali Bastianelli led the front line of defense with a game-high four block assists. Eastern Michigan was led by Jordan Smith with 11 kills, but did it on just a .172 hitting percentage.

“[Illinois] is equipped to do some great things in the tournament,” Eastern Michigan head coach Kimi Olson said. “They’re very physical and they’ve go great hitters on both pins and their middles can terminate.”

Morgan O’Brien was again the team leader in digs with eight, followed by freshman Taylor Kuper’s seven.

“I think it’s hard for them to replicate a team like us,” Poulter said. “I think we did a great job blocking and forced them to try to hit shots they haven’t hit all season.”

Head Coach Chris Tamas was happy with his team’s opening postseason performance.

“We knew Eastern Michigan was gonna be scrappy, really happy with how the whole match went, it was a good team effort like we always preach about,” Tamas said.

The Illini will face Louisville in the second round on Saturday, after the Cardinals defeated Dayton in the game before the Illinois’. It will be a chance for the Illini’s second Sweet Sixteen in the last two years, something they hadn’t done since 2015.

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