Illinois libero Brandi Donnelly injured her knee in the 2nd set of the Illini’s 3-0 loss to Purdue on Friday and missed the team’s 3-1 victory over Indiana on Saturday.
Donnelly had played in all 53 of the team’s sets to that point on the season, recording 8 aces and leading the team with 223 digs. Besides serving as the team’s primary libero, she is also the only senior on the squad in head coach Chris Tamas’ first year.
After her injury, Purdue’s hitting percentage ironically dropped in the 3rd set (.182), but so too did Illinois’ (.098) as they had 9 hitting errors in that frame – as many as they did in the rest of the match combined – after their passing faltered a little in Donnelly’s absence.
It was a replacement-by-committee approach for Illinois. Sophomore Annika Gereau, freshman Morgan O’Brien, and sophomore Caroline Welsh picked up most of the playing time in Donnelly’s absence, recording 10 digs and playing all 4 sets in Saturday’s win. It was a team effort to close the defensive hole though – Illinois had 4 players with double digit digs in the win against Indiana – setter Jordyn Poulter (12), O’Brien (12), Welsh (12), and Gereau (10).
Donnelly was named the September 18th Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week.
Illinois plays Ohio State and Maryland in Champaign next week before heading out on a road trip. An email requesting an update on Donnelly’s injury was not immediately returned. Illinois is 13-14 this season, including 4-2 in Big Ten play. The toughest part of their conference schedule (including a game against Penn State, two against Minnesota, Nebraska, and Michigan, and one against Michigan State) is still ahead of them.