- #24 Illinois def. Northwestern 3-0 (25-11, 25-15, 25-22)
- Illinois moves to 13-6 (6-2 Big Ten); Northwestern falls to 7-13 (0-8 Big Ten)
- Huff Hall, Champaign, Illinois (Illinois hosted)
“It’s a win.”
That’s how Illinois head coach Kevin Hambly described his team’s performance on Saturday when they defeated the Northwestern Wildcats, who have won just 1 set, and no games, in 8 Big Ten gamesthis season.
“We are grateful to get them, we will move on and get to work. This has been a tough run here, We have gone four weeks [with] Wednesday/Saturday matches, and I cannot wait to get in the gym and work on some details.”
Hambly’s chagrin was a result of his team’s lackluster offensive performance, though an equally challenging night for Northwestern led to lopsided scoring, especially in the first two sets.
The Illini hit just .176 on the night, with Northwestern going -.088 by putting up 24 kills and 25 errors. The output by Illinois was their 2nd-lowest of the season and for Northwestern it was their lowest in what became a defensive struggle.
The Illini had 67 digs on the day, including 23 from Brandi Donnelly and 16 from Caroline Welsh. That’s their highest per-set output of the season and combined with 13 team blocks that was their second-best 3-set performance of the year to atone for the struggles of their hitters (nobody was in double-digit kills for either team).
Courtesy Illinois Athletics:
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – The No. 24 Illinois volleyball team earned a season-sweep of Northwestern as the Illini registered a straight-sets (25-11, 25-15, 25-22) win over the Wildcats on Hail to the Orange Night at Huff Hall on Saturday (Oct. 15) night.
The Illini push their record to 13-6 and 6-2 in the Big Ten, while the Wildcats drop to 7-13 and 0-8 in the league standings.
“It’s a win,” said head coach Kevin Hambly. “We are grateful to get them, we will move on and get to work. This has been a tough run here, We have gone four weeks [with] Wednesday/Saturday matches, and I cannot wait to get in the gym and work on some details.”
Senior Michelle Strizak and freshman Jacqueline Quade paced the Illini with nine kills each, while sophomore Ali Bastianelli totaled a match-high 10 blocks on the night.
The Illini were dominate in the opening set, scoring the first three points of the match, before using a 6-1 run to take a 9-4 lead. The Wildcats closed within 14-10, but six-straight points gave the Illini control of the first as the Orange and Blue finished on a 10-1 run to take the opener, 25-11.
It was a back-and-forth start to the second as the Illini led by one at 8-7, but four-straight points, capped by a kill from senior Katie Stadick pushed the edge to 12-7. Another four-straight points later in the stanza then made it 18-11 in favor of the home team. Leading at 22-15, the Illini took advantage of three-straight Wildcat errors to take a 2-0 lead in the match.
The Illini continued their strong play into third and scored the first five points of the set en route to an 8-2 lead. Northwestern fought back to close within 15-14, but the Illini responded with a 6-1 run, including five-straight points – four on the serve of senior Danielle Davis – to grab a 21-15 advantage. After a Bastianelli kill pushed the lead to 22-16, the Wildcats stormed back with four-straight points to cut the deficit to two at 22-20. Back-to-back kills from Quade and Stadick gave the Illini set point at 24-20, but the Wildcats fought of the first two before a Quade kill finished of the match with the 25-22 set victory.
The Illini defense controlled much of the match as the Orange and Blue held NU to a -.008 hitting percentage, including a -.022 clip in the first and a -.133 mark in the second set. Illinois also outblocked (13-5) and outdug (67-59) the visitors, with junior Brandi Donnelly leading the way with 23 digs. It was her fourth 20-dig match of the season and the 24th of her career. Freshman Caroline Welsh recorded a career-high 16 digs, while Strizak turned in 13 digs.
Sophomore setter Jordyn Poulter added 29 assists, six digs and five blocks for the Illini.
Illinois will have almost a week off before their next match as the Illini welcome in Indiana on Friday (Oct. 21) and No. 22 Purdue on Saturday (Oct. 22). Both matches will be at 7 p.m. CT in Huff Hall.
Courtesy Northwestern Athletics:
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – The Northwestern defense held a nationally-ranked Illinois squad to just .176 hitting, and 10 Wildcats got on the score sheet with digs or blocks, but No. 24 Illinois won in a sweep on its home court Saturday night.
Senior Rafae Strobos and freshman Sarah Johnson provided an effective back row for Northwestern, with both reaching double-digit digs. Johnson had a team-high 14, while Strobos, playing libero for the fourth consecutive match, had a career-high 13.
Junior outside hitter Symone Abbott led the way in the kills category for the Wildcats for the 19th time this season. Her seven brought her Big Ten-leading kills total to 282. Eight players recorded kills for Northwestern.
The ‘Cats recorded more attacks than the Illini, but the Illinois front line registered 13 blocks to stymie the Wildcats’ attack.
After dropping the first two sets, NU bounced back and played tight with the Illini in the third, using a rotation that consisted of sophomore Cassidy Nussman and freshman Allie Lindroth, along with the usual starters. Freshman Emily Ehman also made an appearance in the set. Illinois was able to finish off the match with a 25-22 decision.
Lindroth put down four kills in her time on the floor.
Chicago’s Big Ten Team is back at home next weekend with a Friday match against No. 22 Purdue and a Sunday match against Indiana. The latter will be televised nationally on Big Ten Network.