Illinois Sweeps Rutgers in First Home Match in 4 Weeks

  0 Braden Keith | September 25th, 2016 | Big Ten, College - Women's Indoor, News

Match Stats

The Illinois Illini were welcomed back to Huff Hall for their first home match in 4 weeks by a crowd of 2,357, and road the energy to a 3-set sweep of Rutgers.

After a 5-set nail-biter over Purdue in their Big Ten opener, Illinois had a much smoother path against Rutgers, recording a .281 hitting percentage with three players in double digit kills.

Michelle Strizak had 10 kills to go with 10 digs to be the only Illinois player with a double-double on the day; Naya Crittenden earned 11 kills to lead the team with a .450 hitting percentage; and Jacqueline Quade had 12 kills.

Rutgers’ high scorer was Meme Fletcher, who had 13 kills with 6 errors. but added 6 digs to balance that off.

Rutgers hit just .099 on the night – an indicator of the way things went in this match was that the final points in all three sets were on Rutgers hitting errors.


Press Releases

Courtesy Illinois Athletics:

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Following four weeks on the road, the Fighting Illini volleyball team had a triumph return to Huff Hall as they swept Rutgers in straight-sets (25-18, 25-15, 25-21) in their Big Ten Conference home opener on Saturday (Sept. 24) night.

With the win, the Illini, who have won seven-straight matches, improve to 9-4 and 2-0 in the Big Ten, while the Scarlet Knights drop to 4-11 and 0-2 in the conference.

Freshman Jacqueline Quade paced the Illini with 12 kills on the night, while seniors Naya Crittenden and Michelle Strizak joined her in double figure kills as Crittenden collected 11 on 20 swings and only two errors for a .450 hitting percentage. Strizak added her third-career double-double with 10 kills on 22 attacks and only two errors for a .364 clip to go along with 10 digs.

After Rutgers opened with the first point of the match, the Illini string together nine-straight points to build a commanding lead early in the set. With the Illini leading 11-3, the Scarlet Knights scored the next four points to close within 11-7. UI again grabbed a five-point edge at 17-12, but another 4-0 run from the visitors cut the lead to 17-15 midway through the set. The Illini then responded by scoring the next four of five points to push ahead 22-17, before finishing off the set on a block from Strizak and sophomore Blayke Hranicka.

It was another strong start in the second for the home team, who converted the first five points of the stanza. Rutgers fought back to close within two at 8-6, but four-straight points, including back-to-back kills from Strizak and Quade gave the Illini some breathing room at 12-6. The Illini continued to hold the lead throughout the set, with a block from sophomore Ali Bastianelli and Quade giving UI its biggest lead of the set at 20-12. Leading 21-15, the Orange and Blue took at 2-0 lead in the match with four-straight points to wrap up the second, 25-15.

Out of intermission, it was a different story than the first two sets as the third saw five lead changes and 10 ties after only one tie and one lead change happened through the first two periods of the match. A Crittenden kill sandwiched between two Quade scores put the Illini up 9-5 early, but a 6-2 Rutgers run evened the score at 11-11. Play continued to go back-and-forth, before RU used a 5-1 spurt to take an 18-16 lead. With the set tied at 19-19, the Illini then scored the next six of eight points to seal the three-set victory. The Scarlet Knights challenged the final play of the match, a hitting error from Meme Fletcher, but the call stood as the Illini earned the 25-21 set win.

Sophomore setter Jordyn Poulter registered 36 assists in the win as the Illini posted a .281 hitting percentage, including hitting over .330 in both the first and third sets.

Junior Brandi Donnelly secured her 20th career 20-dig match with 20 digs on the night, while the Illini outdug the Knights, 50-28.

As a team, the Illini outblocked their opponent once again, 10-7, with Bastianelli leading the way with five blocks against the Knights. Hranicka, who earned her first career start in the Orange and Blue added four blocks.

The Illini return to the court on Wednesday (Sept. 28) night as they host IlliNOISE Night against reigning NCAA Champion and No. 1-ranked Nebraska at 7:30 p.m. CT. During the BTN-broadcasted match, the Illinois Marketing & Promotions Staff will take a decibel meter reading during the match to put a number to just how loud Huff Hall truly is. In the first two years of IlliNOISE Night, the Huff Hall crowd hit a decibel reading of 105 dB and 107 dB, respectively, as this season the Illini attempt to break that record yet again.

Courtesy Rutgers Athletics:

CHAMPAIGN, ILL. (Sept. 24, 2016) – Although the Rutgers women’s volleyball team (4-11, 0-2 Big Ten) pushed Illinois (9-4, 2-0 Big Ten) to the brink in the third set of the match, the Fighting Illini claimed the sweep by set scores of 25-18, 25-15, and 25-21 on Saturday night at Huff Hall.

Junior outside hitter Meme Fletcher led RU for the ninth time this season with 13 kills. Fifth-year senior middle blocker Mikaela Matthews posted five blocks, while adding eight kills of her own.

Ali Bastianelli paced Illinois with a .450 hitting percentage, including a total of 11 kills, and five blocks. Jacqueline Quade and Michelle Strizak rounded out the double-figure kill performances with 12 and 10 kills, respectively.

After falling behind 9-1 to start set one, the Scarlet Knights found their rhythm to rally a 10-5 run to cut the Illini lead to 14-11. Rutgers continued to dig into the deficit, pulling as close as 18-16 on a kill by Fletcher. However, the late RU surge fell short as UI closed the frame with a 25-18 win.

Despite stumbling in the second set, a kill for senior right side Lauren Cloyd to open the third set brought RU to life. The Scarlet Knights kept the score balanced as a block from Fletcher and Matthews put the Scarlet Knights in the lead, 4-3. The teams continued to trade points keeping the margin tight, but Illinois managed to hold a slight edge on the board. RU gained momentum after stringing together three unanswered points highlighted by a successful challenge and a kill by Fletcher to tie the set, 11-11.

RU knotted the score three more times before claiming the lead, 18-16, on back-to-back kills by Fletcher and sophomore middle blocker Tiaja McKnight. Although the count would be tied on two more occasions, the Fighting Illini inched to a 22-20 advantage. The Scarlet Knights pulled back within one, however, RU was unable to stay alive as UI closed the match with a slim 25-21 victory in the third.

Rutgers returns home for matches with No. 22 Michigan on Friday, Sept. 30 and No. 20 Michigan State on Saturday, Oct. 1.


Follow Rutgers Volleyball on Twitter and Instagram (@RUvball) for all of the latest news and updates. The team is also on Facebook ( For all Rutgers Athletics news follow us on Twitter(@RUAthletics), Instagram (@RUAthletics), Snapchat (@RUAthletics) and Facebook (

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About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of Braden's first foray into sports journalism came in 2010, when he launched a swimming website called The Swimmers' Circle. Two years later, he joined as a co-founder. Long huge fans of volleyball, when Braden and the SwimSwam partners sought an opportunity to …

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