Big Ten season is upon us, and with it comes the best volleyball of the year. The Illini’s season continued where it left off, with two exciting matchups following last week’s Illini Classic. The Illini would win both of those games, moving to 13-0 on the season and 2-0 in conference play.
September 22: #8 Illinois 3, #16 Purdue 1
Illinois opened Big Ten play on the road with a win at West Lafayette, beating its fifth opponent in the Top 25, 25-19, 23-25, 25-23, 26-24. In the closely contested match, Illinois hit at a .210 clip to Purdue’s .221.
Illinois had four players reach double digit kills, as Beth Prince led the way with 19, followed by Megan Cooney (12), Ali Bastianelli (11), and Jacqueline Quade (11). Illinois’ serving game was also strong, as Bastianelli picked up five aces and Quade picked up another four, as the team tallied 12 aces in total.
September 23: #8 Illinois 3, Indiana 2
The Illini stayed in Indiana for their second match of the weekend, heading down to Bloomington to face the Hoosiers of Indiana. Despite starting the match down 2-0, Illinois came back to win 24-26, 22-25, 25-18, 25-17, 15-8.
It was a match of two halves for the Illini, whose imposing front row failed to pick up a single block in the first two sets. However, the Illini came to life in the third set and didn’t look back, winning the next three to head home with their second win of the weekend.
Cooney and Prince each had 16 kills, while Quade (15) and Bastianelli (13) both reached double digit figures. Jordyn Poulter, who received Big Ten Setter of the Week honors last week, had another excellent performance, picking up 52 assists with no errors.
Big Picture: Consistency Is Key
As the lllini enter Big Ten play undefeated, they have proven themselves to be a formidable opponent. However, some of their toughest opponents lie ahead in games which will be huge for the Illini. Next weekend, the Illini face Iowa and No. 4 Nebraska, in games that will undoubtedly challenge the Illini once again.
Throughout this season, while facing their best opponents or in tough situations, the Illini have found another gear to propel them forwards, with strong serves, great defense and strong hitting from everyone on the court, helping them transform what would be bad losses into good wins.
If Illinois can continue to play at this high level, there should be some exciting games in store for the Illini, especially against the Big Ten’s highest ranked opponents.
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