Illinois volleyball sweeps Rutgers in Big Ten home opener


Austin Yattoni

Illinois opposite hitter Naya Crittenden gets ready to spike the ball during the match against Arkansas at Huff Hall on August 26. The Illini won 3-0.

By James Boyd, Staff writer

The Illinois volleyball team returned home after nine games on the road, and the team did not disappoint its home crowd with a win over Rutgers in straight sets.

The victory extended the Illini’s win streak to seven.

Head coach Kevin Hambly felt that his team did not play up to the competition, compared to the team’s victory against Purdue Wednesday.

“’It’s disappointing. I just hate when we give in to human nature,” Hambly said. “But the fact that we jumped out early, and (Rutgers) was making a bunch of errors, we just saw the team, the whole team just relax and give in just like, ‘Oh we can win this.’”

Rutgers scored the first point of the match because of an attack error by sophomore Ali Bastianelli, but the Illini reeled off eight straight points to take a commanding 9-1 lead. The Scarlet Knights fought back to close the lead down to two points, but that’s as close as they would get to victory.

A kill from senior Naya Crittenden and an attack error by Rutgers’ Cole Trimble gave Illinois a 25-18 victory in the first set.

In the second, Illinois again jumped out to an early lead, and although the team defeated Rutgers by 10 points, the Illini once more allowed the Scarlet Knights to hang around. Senior Michelle Strizak had three kills in the set.

The second set ended with three straight attack errors by Rutgers.

“We all learned a lot in the (Purdue) match and that was really good for us,” Crittenden said. “Tonight, even for myself personally, this wasn’t what we wanted. This wasn’t the way we really wanted to play.”

The Scarlet Knights did not let the Illini jump out to an early lead. The set went back and forth with 10 ties, but ultimately, Rutgers would leave Huff Hall with a straight sets loss.

Illinois squeezed out a four-point victory behind seven kills from freshmen Jacqueline Quade. The outside hitter led the way for the Illini with 12 kills on the night.

“The passing wasn’t going as fluid as we were hoping,” Strizak said. “I think we kind of found it and then we took a break, and then kind of lost it. We kind of lost focus there in the third game.”

Illinois is now 2-0 in the Big Ten and will face defending national champion Nebraska at home Wednesday. Hambly said he expects his team to respond to the challenge.

“I think they’re going to be more fired up,” Hambly said. “They know what it takes.”

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