- Illinois (RV) def. #24 Western Kentucky 3-0 (25-6, 25-17, 25-13)
- Illinois moves to 5-0; WKU drops to 4-2
- Louisville, Kentucky
- Box Score
Illinois put together a near flawless, record-setting hitting performance in a sweep of No. 24 Western Kentucky on Saturday morning. The Fighting Illini committed just four errors as a team en route to a school record .652 hitting effort, besting a 1992 effort for the top mark (.635 at Northeastern Illinois, Sept. 1, 1992 – 42K, 2E, 63Att.).
All six players with a hitting attempt posted a .500 or better effort on the day.
In addition to their standout hitting effort, the Illini won the block 5-0 and outserved WKU 7-1. For its part, Western Kentucky hit at a very respectable .338 clip.
Redshirt sophomore outside hitter Beth Prince and junior middle blocker Ali Bastianelli paced Illinois with 12 and 11 kills respectively. Bastianelli hit at a .917 clip, going without an error in 12 hitting attempts, while also adding a team-best three blocks and an ace. Sophomore outside Jacqueline Quade chipped in nine kills and served up a team-best two aces. Senior libero Brandi Donnelly and freshman defensive specialist Morgan O’Brien paced the defense with seven digs apiece as the Illini outdid WKU 24-13 in that area.
Senior outside Alyssa Cavanaugh was tops among WKU hitters with 111 kills and a .300 hitting effort. Junior middle Rachel Anderson added nine kills, while also hitting .300. Seninor setter Jessica Lucas led the defense with three digs.
WKU took the early advantage, going up 6-3 in the opening set with help from two Cavanagh kills. Illinois knotted the score at 8-all as four players turned in putaways. The Illini continued the rally on to a 13-9 advantage with a 5-0 run capped by an O’Brien ace. Illinois went up 15-10 and the lead teetered between four and five over the next eight serves. Quade put down three kills as the margin swelled to eight at 23-15. A Bastianelli kill set up the final point, which came on a WKU hitting error.
The teams split the first 12 points of Set 2. A service error and a Taylor Dellinger kill gave WKU an 8-6 edge, but Illinois broke away with a 9-2 run. An ace, a kill and a block by Quade as well as a pair of Lady Topper errors contributed to the rally. The Illini boosted the lead to seven at 21-14 after two Blayke Hranicka kills and one by Megan Cooney. Western Kentucky cut the deficit to six at 23-17, but Quade and Hranicka ended any thoughts of a further comeback with back to back kills.
Illinois led 8-4 in the early stages of Set 3 thanks to three WKU miscues and an ace by Jordan Poulter. Up 12-9, the Illinois turned it up a notched with nine straight points, including three kills and a block by Prince and two Bastianelli putaways. Western Kentucky rebounded momentarily with back-to-back-to-back kills by Anderson, but Prince finished off the match with her final two kills.
Courtesy: Illinois Athletics
The Fighting Illini set a new single-match hitting percentage school record in rout to a sweep of No. 24 Western Kentucky (25-16, 25-17, 25-13) on Saturday as part of the Cardinal Classic. Swinging .652 as a team, the Illini led by a .917 hitting percentage from junior Ali Bastianelli and 12 kills from redshirt sophomore Beth Prince and another nine from sophomore Jacqueline Quade. The win improves the Illini to 5-0 on the season, while Western Kentucky drops to 4-2.
Topping the previous school record of .635 set back on September 1, 1992 at Northwestern Illinois, the Illini were hitting on cylinders on Saturday morning, finishing each set with an attack percentage north of .600. The best single-mat team hitting percentage during the rally-scoring era, which began in 2001, was a .483 performance against Murray State at Huff Hall on September 17, 2016.
The Illini attack proved to be most efficient in the opening set of the day, tallying 19 kills on 24 attempts with only two errors. After the Lady Hilltoppers jumped out to a 6-3 advantage early in the set, the Illini worked the match back to a tie at 9-9. Led by tough serves from freshman Morgan O’Brien, the Illini took the lead for good with four consecutive points on three kills and an ace from O’Brien. Illinois and Western Kentucky again traded points before Illinois added another four-point run, served up by senior Brandi Donnelly, to push the advantage out to eight. The Illini wrapped up the set by taking three of the next four points to seal the frame, 25-16.
Much the same as the first set, the Illini used a run a third of the way through the set to take control. Trailing 8-6, the Orange and Blue rolled off five straight points, highlighted by a kill from Bastianelli and an ace from Donnelly. Continuing to build the lead, the Illini never allowed Western Kentucky to get closer than six following an ace by Bastianelli to make it 17-11. Contributing to the 25-17 set-two win were kills from six different Illini, including four of junior middle blocker Black Hranicka’s six kills on the afternoon.
Leading 2-0 out of the break, Beth Prince took over the third set with nine kills on 13 errorless swings to pace the Illini to their biggest set victory of the day, 25-13. With Illinois leading 12-9 midway through the set, the sophomore outside hitter tallied three of her the nine kills as part of a 9-0 run that pushed the lead to 21-9. Prince’s 12 kills for the match set a new career-high for the Avon, Indiana product, topping 11 against Iowa on October 29, 2016.
Also setting career-best marks on Saturday morning was Ali Bastianelli with a .917 swing percentage on 12 attacks. Bastianelli began the match 11-for-11 on her swings before Western Kentucky ended her perfect match with a dig late in the third set. Lauded by the Big Ten for her defensive work last weekend, the junior middle blocker is now 21 for 29 this weekend, good for a .724 percentage to go along with 11 blocks and a service ace.
To compliment their offensive prowess, the Illini won the block advantage for the fifth straight match this season, stuffing Western Kentucky five times without allowing any blocks by the Lady Toppers.
The Illini return to Cardinal Arena this evening to take on, host, Louisville at 6:30 p.m. central time.
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