Illinois Volleyball didn’t disappoint this week, making quick work of both of its opponents as they improved to 26-3 on the season. With only two games left in the regular season, the Illini are poised to finish with one of the best regular season performances in Illinois history, behind only Mike Hebert’s teams in 1985 and ‘86.
November 14: #4 Illinois 3, Northwestern 0
It only took 1:09 for the Illini to take down the Wildcats in Evanston, defeating them 25-16, 25-11, 25-14. Illinois’s offense controlled the game all night, hitting .408, while Northwestern hit at an awful -.025 rate.
As Jordyn Poulter set her team up 33 times for the evening, Ali Bastianelli and Megan Cooney each picked up 10 kills, while Jacqueline Quade added another nine. Taylor Kuper continued to excel with the serve, adding two more aces to her impressive season tally, and Morgan O’Brien led the defense with 12 digs on the evening.
Bastianelli also had four blocks on the evening, pushing her career block total over 700, a mark that only three Big Ten players have ever reached.
November 17: #4 Illinois 3, Rutgers 0
There were no surprises Saturday evening, as Illinois took down the basement-dwelling Scarlet Knights, 25-11, 25-20, 25-21.
With a quick match, individual figures were once again rather low, but some figures stood out. Jacqueline Quade led the team with 12 kills, while Megan Cooney added another nine, and Jordyn Poulter collected another 34 assists to add to her impressive season total.
Illinois’s formidable block showed up as usual, as Ali Bastianelli led the team with seven and was followed up by Ashlyn Fleming and Poulter, who each had four.
Big Picture: It’s The Home Stretch!
Only two matches lie between the Fighting Illini and the postseason. With a road match against Michigan State on Wednesday and a home match versus Purdue on Saturday, this is another big week for the Illini. While the Spartans shouldn’t pose much of a threat to Illinois, Purdue is a formidable opponent that could cause some trouble.
The Boilermakers have struggled recently, losing three straight matches to top-10 opponents prior to facing Iowa on Saturday evening. However, they are a strong team that took Illinois to four sets earlier in the season. Purdue is sitting on the edge of hosting the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, and a win against the Illini would be a huge boost to its resume in front of the Volleyball Committee. Look for them to come out swinging, though if Illinois can adjust like it did against Penn State last week, it shouldn’t be a problem.
As the Illini look to close out the regular season, they are practically guaranteed to at least host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, and if they can win out this week, they will lock up home-court advantage through the Elite Eight. It’s an exciting time to be an Illini fan with a team like this, with so much potential still ahead of them in the NCAA Tournament.
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