Review: Colleen Ward had a performance for the ages in helping Illinois secure its third appearance in the national semifinals and first in 23 years. The Illini unleashed some offensive firepower in posting a 25-22, 23-25, 25-14, 25-20 victory over Florida to win the regional and advance to Thursday's Final Four.
The Illini, who had hit over .300 in six of its previous nine matches, hit an incredible .455, .394 and .514 in the final three sets, respectively, in overpowering the Gators at the net. At the heart of the attack was Ward. The Regional Tournament MVP had 23 kills in 42 swings, hitting .500 for the night in helping the Illini hit .338.
Ward was one of three Illini named to the seven person All-Regional Tournament Team, joining senior outside hitter Michelle Bartsch and sophomore libero Jennifer Beltran. Bartsch had 30 kills and 17 digs for the regional, including 12 kills and nine digs vs. Florida. Beltran tied an Illinois NCAA match record with 26 digs in the semifinal vs. Ohio State Friday and added 13 digs vs. Florida.
Illinois defeated Ohio State in the regional semifinal 23-25, 26-24, 25-23, 25-19. Although several players took turns providing the offensive firepower, it was senior Michelle Bartsch who was able to
provide powerful swings and smart shots without many errors. The All-American had a team best 18 kills while hitting .362.
Preview: Illinois will play USC in the National Semifinal on Thursday at 8 p.m. CT at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. Florida St. (28-6) will take on UCLA (28-6) in the other semifinal while the National Championship is slated for Saturday at 7:30 p.m. CT. All matches will be aired live on ESPN2 and ESPN3.com with Beth Mowins and Karch Kiraly on the call.
Women's Basketball (4-5)
Review: The University of Illinois women's basketball squad earned a 66-56 win at Illinois State, with freshman Ivory Crawford netting a career-high 16 points to lead the Orange and Blue to victory. Redshirt-sophomore Amber Moore and junior Adrienne GodBold also reached double-figures in scoring as the Illini never trailed during the contest, with Moore tallying 13 and GodBold contributing 11 on the game.
Preview: Illinois continues its season with a contest against #16/22 Texas Tech in the Big Ten/Big 12 Challenge, with the game held at the United Center in Chicago on Saturday, December 17 at 1 p.m. CT.
Review: The wrestling team did not compete last week.
Preview: The Fighting Illini will host UT-Chattanooga at Huff Hall on Sunday, Dec. 18 with the dual beginning at 1 p.m. CT.