Volleyball splits with Iowa, Nebraska

By Christian Evans, Staff writer

The Illinois women’s volleyball team increased its win streak to four matches with a win against Iowa on Friday night, but the streak ended Saturday as the team lost against No. 7 Nebraska.

The win against Iowa did not come easily. The Illini fought off three-straight match points and scored five consecutive points in the fifth set to win 3-2 against the Hawkeyes.

Iowa gave itself the biggest lead for either team in the set by scoring four-straight points to establish a 14-11 lead. Illinois responded by scoring five-straight points — all coming from the trio of Jacqueline Quade, Ali Bastianelli and Jordyn Poulter — to get the 16-14 victory in the set, which clinched the match.

In the first set, there were 10 ties and six lead changes. The final tie came late at 21-21, and from then on, the Illini scored four of the final six points to take the first set.

Offensively, Quade, Beth Prince, Bastianelli and Megan Cooney all had double-digit kills against Iowa.

Cooney had a career-high 16 kills on a .314 hitting percentage. She said the reason for her career performance could be directly attributed to her teammates around her.

The win for Illinois (16-4, 7-2) was its fourth-straight win in conference. The result also propelled them into a three-way tie in the Big Ten standings for third place, with Minnesota and Michigan.

In Saturday’s game, Nebraska ended Illinois’ win streak, defeating the team in four sets.

“Well I think we learned that we can take a set from one of the best teams in the country,” Bastianelli said. “But we also need to learn how to cut huge runs. If we could have cut a few of those runs down, especially in the third set, it would have been a different match. You cannot let the best teams go on runs like that.”

That third set started off as a close one, as Nebraska held a 6-4 lead early on. The Cornhuskers then scored six of the next seven points to put themselves comfortably in the lead at 12-5. At 15-10, the Cornhuskers went on an 8-3 run to give themselves a convincing 23-13 lead.

Illinois attempted to come back with six straight points to make it 23-19, but kills from Kelly Hunter and Mikaela Foecke of Nebraska ended the set at 25-20 in favor of Nebraska.

In the match, Poulter led the Illini to a .252 hitting percentage and had 43 assists, along with seven digs and four blocks.

“To hit that number against a team that prides themselves to holding teams to usually under 15 percent is a good thing,” Tamas said.

Bastianelli led the team offensively with her fifth-straight double-digit kill performance, as she had 13 kills with no errors on a .765 hitting percentage. Prince added 12 kills and Quade and freshman Tyanna Omazic each had nine kills. The nine kills were a career high for Omazic, along with four blocks.

O’Brien and Welsh once again piloted the defensive effort, as they had 16 and 15 digs, respectively.

“We have done pretty well,” Tamas said. “We have handled a lot of teams that we are kind of in the same caliber with. We just need to learn how to compete with ranked teams more consistently, but I think we got closer to that goal today against Nebraska.”

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