No. 11 Illinois started opening day with a sweep of UNC Wilmington and closed out a 2-0 effort in Fort Collins, Colorado, by outlasting homestanding Colorado State (RV) in five sets.
Illinois def. UNC Wilmington 3-0
No. 11 Illinois opened the season with a sweep of UNC Wilmington featuring junior outside hitter Jacqueline Quade‘s offensive prowess to the tune of a match-high 15 kills.
Key Stats: The Fighting Illini bested the Seahawks in every statistical category: kills (46-26), hitting percentage (.299 to .094), aces (7-4) and blocks (6-4). UNCW hit at a match-high .385 clip in a 25-22 Set 2 loss, while Illinois hit better than .300 in the final two stanzas.
Stat Leaders: Quade led all hitters with 15 kills on a .267 hitting effort, while Ali Bastianelli added nine putaways and Blayke Hranicka notched eight terminations. Bastianelli hit at a .471 clip, while Ashlyn Fleming put up a match-high three blocks.
Setter Brynn Montgomery, a Fort Collins native, led the Seahawks with eight kills to go with 11 assists, five digs and two aces. Maddy Kline (6) and Halle Hunte (5) rounded out the offense. Kline and Katie McCullough pulled up seven digs apiece.
How It Happened: Quade started the match with back to back kills leading the Illini to an early 6-2 edge. Illinois held on from there, upping the advantage to seven at 19-12 and then closing out the set on a 6-1 run.
UNC Wilmington led briefly in Set 2 at 6-4, but Illinois countered with eight of the next 10 points, including three Quade terminations to go up 12-8. The Seahawks knotted things up at 14-all, before the Illini pulled away with a 6-1 run and two Jordyn Poulter aces. UNCW was within two at 24-22, before Bastianelli ended the stanza.
The Fighting Illini cruised to a 12-5 advantage with two kills each from Quade, Poulter and Bastianelli. Montgomery brought UNCW within four at 14-10, but Illini added five of the next seven points. Three Seahawk errors down the stretch helped wrap up the 25-16 win and the match.
Northern Colorado def. UNC Wilmington 3-0
- Northern Colorado def. UNC Wilmington 25-10, 25-22, 25-22
- Box Score
- Northern Colorado Recap / UNCW Recap
Key Stats: UNCW got off to a rough start, hitting -.121 in the opening set, but pushed Northern Colorado to the limit in a three-set loss on Friday.
The Seahawks won the blocking battle 5-4, but could not keep pace with the Bears in the remainder of the match. Northern Colorado outdid UNCW in kills (45-30), hitting percentage (.296 to 114), aces (7-2) and digs (49-37).
Stat Leaders: Taylor Els piled up 26 digs to lead the Bears defensively, while Kortney Lockey paced the offense with 14 kills. Lauren Hinrichs and Jayden McCartney were not far behind with nine and eight putaways respectively. Lockey also turned in seven digs, two blocks and two aces. Brittany Lawrence tacked on six kills on a team-best .500 hitting effort and added three blocks.
Maddy Kline notched eight kills and seven digs for the Seahawks. Halle Hunt added six putaways and eight digs. Anna Moss and Brynn Montgomery chipped in five kills each while hitting better than .300. Rebecca Nuanez put up a team-high two blocks.
How It Happened: Northern Colorado scored 11 of the final 12 points in a 25-10 Set 1 victory with help from five UNCW miscues.
In Set 2, the Bears built a 7-2 lead with kills by four different players. Two Lockey kills and three Seahawk errors had Northern Colorado up 15-9 midway through. A 7-3 run made it 24-16, but UNCW wasn’t done yet, rallying to within three before falling on a hitting error.
The Bears wrapped up the match by rallying from down 16-13 for a 25-22 win. An 8-3 run including two kills each by Lockey and Hinrichs lifted Northern Colorado to a 21-19 edge. The Bears held on from there, scoring the final three points including back to back kills by McCartney to seal the victory.
Illinois def. Colorado State 3-2
- Illinois def. Colorado State 25-16, 25-14, 18-25, 25-27, 15-11
- Box Score
- Illinois Recap / Colorado State Recap
Key Stats: Illinois put up 13 blocks and outdid Colorado State 59-44 in kills to highlight a five-set victory. The Fighting Illini outhit the Rams .176 to .137 and boasted defensive advantages in blocks (13-10) and digs (64-48). CSU outserved Illinois 8-6. Illinois hit at a match-best .296 clip with 12 kills in the final stanza, while Colorado State managed a .158 effort and six putaways.
Stat Leaders: Jacqueline Quade downed 22 kills and served up two aces to lead Illinois to victory. Megan Cooney (13) and Blayke Hranicka (11) rounded out the Illini attack, although neither hit better than .200. Setter Jordyn Poulter managed a double-double with 46 assists and 15 digs, while Ashlyn Fleming put up a team-best seven blocks and Ali Bastianelli chipped in six stuffs.
Breana Runnels put together a 17-kill, 13 dig double-double and added three blocks to lead the Rams. Kirstie Hillyer added nine kills and six blocks, while Paulina Hougaard-Jensen tacked on eight kills and three stuffs. Maddi Foutz and Sasha Colombo served up three aces apiece.
How It Happened: A 9-4 run in Set 5 helped lift Illinois past Colorado State to close out opening day. The rally turned a 4-3 lead into a 13-7 advantage, putting the match out of reach for the homestanding Rams. Five different players turned in kills, including two each by Hranicka and Quade. The Rams kept the match going with a kill by Runnels and an Illini hitting error. A Cooney kill set up match point, but it would take three more points for her to get another and close out the victory.