- #21 Illinois defeats Belmont 3-0 (24-9, 25-16, 25-23
Courtesy Illinois Athletics:
EUGENE, Ore. – The No. 21 Fighting Illini volleyball team returned to the win column Saturday (Sept. 10) morning with a 3-0 (25-9, 25-16, 25-23) sweep of Belmont in the two teams’ first-ever meeting at the Nike Invitational in Matthew Knight Arena on the campus of the University of Oregon.
Sophomore Ali Bastianelli led the Illini with nine blocks to go along with five kills on seven attacks and no errors for a .714 hitting percentage, while freshman Jacqueline Quade totaled a team-high nine kills and a .389 hitting percentage as well as five digs and three blocks.
“I thought Ali B. was a good choice [as player of the match on the Illini audio broadcast] because she got us going blocking-wise and that put a lot of pressure on them,” said head coach Kevin Hambly. “They [Belmont] were struggling to find any offense and she had seven blocks in that first set and that just disrupted their whole offense. I thought she set a good tone for us defensively. We sided-out at a high rate; I don’t know if we played particularly well offensively, but defensively we were committed to being pretty good and that made a big difference.”
After a service ace from freshman Caroline Welsh started the match off, the Illini (3-4) jumped out to a quick 6-1 lead capped by a block from senior Naya Crittenden and Bastianelli. The Bruins (6-3) closed within 7-4, but six-straight points from the Illini pushed the advantage to 13-4. Back-to-back blocks made it 15-5, before the finished off the first with a 10-4 run.
It was another fast start for the Illini in the second at 4-1, but after a no touch call on a Belmont kill was overturned, the Bruins cut the score to 9-8. The Illini then responded by taking the next five points to build a 14-8 lead after a Quade kill. The two teams traded points over the next several plays, before a Crittenden kill pushed the lead to 21-13 and forcing a Bruin timeout. Bastianelli then ended the second set in favor of the Illini with a kill following a BU overpass.
Following intermission, the Bruins came out fighting and took their first lead in a set at 4-2 to open the third. The Illini then put together five-unanswered points to retake the lead at 7-4. The Orange and Blue continued to gain space between them and the Bruins, only to find Belmont fight their way back into the set. With the Illini holding a 20-16 advantage late in the set, the Bruins used a 6-1 run to take a 22-21 lead. With the score knotted at 23-23, Welsh then served up an ace, followed by a Quade kill to earn the straight-set Illini victory.
As a team, the Illini posted a .328 hitting percentage – including a .455 mark in the second set. UI was dominated on the block with 12 stuffs in the match, while holding Belmont to just three blocks. The Illini also outdug the Bruins, 33-21, in the win.
Crittenden added seven kills on 12 swings and only two errors for a .417 hitting percentage.
Sophomore setter Jordyn Poulter turned in a team-high 24 assists and six blocks, while junior libero Brandi Donnelly led the team with 15 digs.
Illinois wraps up play at the Nike Invitational in its finale match against Saint Mary’s later tonight at 8 p.m. CT in Matthew Knight Arena.
Courtesy Belmont Athletics:
EUGENE, Ore. — Despite being down two sets and facing its second nationally ranked opponent this week, Belmont Volleyball (6-3) launched a valiant effort to topple No. 21 Illinois (3-4) on Saturday morning at the Oregon Nike Invitational. The Bruins battled hard and rallied to within striking distance in set three but fell, 3-0.
Illinois got off to a fast start in set one, going up 6-1, forcing Belmont to burn a timeout early. The Fighting Illini were a stringent defensive line at the net, stopping several Bruin attacks there, blowing its lead up to double digits, 16-6. BU was only able to tally three more points, falling 25-9, as UIUC powered through the opening set.
BU fell behind early in set two but rallied to stay within two points, 8-6, with a brief rally behind a kill by sophomore Maggie Mullins (Nashville, Tenn.) and a service ace by classmate Tori Simmons(Murfreesboro, Tenn.). Belmont was within striking distance and challenged a call to trim the difference to one point, 9-8. The Bruins continued to threaten midway through the set before Illinois returned to leaning on stopping attacks at the net to pull away again. Despite inching closer in the second frame, BU was held off 25-16.
The Bruins gained their first lead of the match, 4-2, following an ace by junior Emma Price (Fort Mill, S.C.) sandwiched by a pair of kills by freshman Hannah Hickman (The Woodlands, Texas). The Illini refocused and knotted the score but the Bruins dug in their heels and kept the set tight. Belmont surged again using a service ace by redshirt sophomore Alexa Nichols (Walton, Ky.), kill by junior Arianna Person (Lenexa, Kan.)
A kill by junior Brie Lewis (Stillwell, Kan.) made it one-point set, 17-16, and Belmont continued surging. The Bruins dug in their heels and used a service ace by Lewis to knot the set at 20. The score would be tied again at 21 and 22 before Belmont emerged with a one-point advantage. Illinois called timeout and the Bruin fans in the stands were on their feet cheering wildly. BU looked like it had enough fuel to push to a fourth set even as the Illini tied the score at 23. However, a service ace and a kill narrowly sealed the win, 25-23.
Lewis finished with a team-high eight kills while Price tallied a match-high 24 assists. Junior Ellie Ivancich (Naperville, Ill.) collected seven digs.
Belmont returns to action for one last time on Saturday against host-Oregon at the Nike Invitational. Match time is set for 5 pm CT. Live stats will be available and the contest can been seen live on the Pac-12 Network. Fans may also follow the team’s Twitter account (@BelmontVB) for live, in-game updates.