Coming out of a tough stretch following three straight matches against the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-ranked teams in the nation, Illinois has climbed back into the win column, winning three of its last five matches. Despite the slide, the Illini are still ranked in the AVCA Divsion 1 Coaches Top 25 Poll, coming in at No. 25 as of this Monday’s poll.
In the last week, Illinois traveled to Iowa where it made quick work of the Hawkeyes, sweeping them in three sets. The Illini then made their way to Ann Arbor, where they fell to Michigan for the second time this season, in four sets.
November 6, 2019: Illinois 3, Iowa 0 (25-18, 25-23, 25-15)
Up against an Iowa team which has struggled this year following the offseason firing of Hawkeye head coach Bond Shymansky, the Illini easily dispatched Iowa, taking down the Hawkeyes in straight sets.
Megan Cooney came to life for the Illini, leading the team with 17 kills on a blistering .667 hitting percentage, as Jacqueline Quade added 10 more to her impressive season, and Mica Allison picked up another nine. Taylor Kuper also excelled up the serve, collecting five aces in a single match.
November 9, 2019: Michigan 3, Illinois 1 (22-25, 23-25, 25-21, 18-25)
Looking to even the season series against Michigan, Illinois was unable to overcome an early deficit, pushing the game out to four sets before ultimately falling to the Wolverines.
It was a big night for Jacqueline Quade, as she tallied 18 kills to lead the Illini. Ashlyn Fleming was right behind her with 12 of her own, while Megan Cooney had eight. Quade also had a great night on the serve, picking up four aces. Diana Brown continued to set up the offense, picking up 48 assists for the match.
Looking Ahead: Finish Strong!
The Illini currently sit at a 12-11 record, and a 7-7 Big Ten record. While I don’t believe that Illinois is on the bubble yet for making the NCAA Tournament, any further slide could seriously hurt its tournament chances.
With only six games remaining in regular season play, and only one of them against a higher ranked opponent — No. 8 Penn State this Friday — Illinois has to go 5-1 in this stretch. Illinois still plays Rutgers (8-17, 2-12 B1G) once at home and Northwestern (10-16, 1-13 B1G) twice in this final stretch. With these matches looming to drag down an Illini RPI already sitting at 43, it’s imperative that Illinois controls the damage here and wins these matches.