No. 4 Illinois Volleyball is now 22-3, following a two-win weekend with victories against Ohio State and Maryland. While neither Ohio State or Maryland have winning conference records, the two wins help continue to build the Illini’s momentum as they head into a weekend where they will face their toughest remaining opponent, No. 7 Penn State.
November 2: #4 Illinois 3, Ohio State 1
The Illini started off their weekend road trip with a win against the Buckeyes, 25-17, 18-25, 25-11, 25-19. Illinois hit .350 as a team, as Big Ten Setter of the Week Jordyn Poulter picked up 40 assists and Jacqueline Quade led the offense with 13 kills. Also leading the attack were Ali Bastianelli and Beth Prince, who had 12 and 11 kills each.
Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week Morgan O’Brien had 20 digs, and also excelled with the serve, picking up four aces on the day.
November 4: #4 Illinois 3, Maryland 0
Illinois made quick work of the Terrapins on Sunday, defeating them in three sets, 25-18, 25-9, 25-14. Illinois hit an unbelievable .468 for the match, including a ridiculous second set where the team hit .577, with 15 kills on 26 attempts. Poulter had 37 assists on the match, as the offense was led by Bastianelli and Prince, who had ten kills each.
Taylor Kuper led the defense this match, with 13 digs.
Big Picture: Six Matches to Go
With only six matches left in the regular season, Illinois looks to finish its season on strong footing. Ranked fourth in the AVCA polls and second by RPI, the NCAA Volleyball Committee has Illinois ranked fourth as of Oct. 31, good for hosting the tournament through the Elite Eight. Continuing to win games will be huge for the Illini as they look to maintain this ranking and hold a huge advantage in the NCAA Tournament.
Of the last six opponents, four of them have losing conference records (Northwestern, Michigan State and two matches against Rutgers). Michigan State (3-11 in conference play) is probably the scariest of these teams, though they are rather inconsistent, having been swept by Northwestern while taking No. 3 Minnesota to five sets before falling this weekend. I don’t anticipate that Rutgers (0-14 B1G) or Northwestern (4-10 B1G) should pose much trouble to the Illini, though crazier things have happened before. These are games that the Illini are heavily favored to win, and execution in them is essential.
The two tougher opponents still on the schedule for Illinois are No. 7 Penn State and No. 13 Purdue. These two ranked opponents should put up a fight against the Illini, and wins here would be huge for Illinois. Illinois faces Penn State next Saturday, and the Nittany Lions — consistently one of the best teams in college volleyball — will be looking for a quality win following recent losses to both Purdue and Nebraska as they also look to secure home court advantage in the NCAA Tournament. This is the single toughest remaining game on the schedule for Illinois, and the only matchup between these two teams this season.
Though Illinois beat Purdue in four on the road, the Boilermakers have built up steam and are rolling through the opposition, winning seven straight including an upset of Penn State. Illinois will close out its regular season on November 24 against Purdue, in a match that could dictate the momentum Illinois has going into the NCAA Tournament, which could prove costly for the early rounds.
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