Fans Get First Look at 2014 Illini in Intrasquad Scrimmage
Aug. 23, 2014
Champaign, Ill. - The Illini Networkers hosted the annual Alumni Match this evening, as several former Illini were in attendance for an intrasquad scrimmage. 1,376 fans packed the brand new bleachers in Huff Hall eager to get a first look at the 2014 Fighting Illini volleyball team. The Orange and Blue played four sets, switching up the teams between each set to help determine which starting seven might hit the court on opening night next Friday.
Freshman Brandi Donnelly anchored the defense on one side of the court, serving as the libero for the Orange team for all four sets, where she put up a match-leading 25 digs. Julia Conard and Danielle Davis each played two sets as Blue team libero and two sets as a defensive specialist for the Orange team, totaling 13 and 17 digs, respectively. Sophomore outside hitter Michelle Strizak saw extra time in the back row, recording 15 digs.
Preseason All-Big Ten outside hitter paced the Orange team with 13 kills on the night, while sophomore Katie Roustio totaled a team-high 14 kills in her three sets on the Blue team. Criswell and Liz McMahon put up nine kills apiece, and Katie Stadick led the Illini middles with 10.
"As an outside hitter I think it's important to be consistent and be able to switch back and forth," said Criswell. "This season we have a lot of moving parts and that's going to be how our season is. I think it's important for everyone to try to be consistent this year."
Illini fans got their first look at the 6-2 setter rotation tonight, with a different pair of setters teaming up on the Orange team each set. Returning starter Alexis Viliunas led the Illini with 27 assists, followed by Arizona State transfer Allison Palmer with 20 and sophomore McKenna Kelsay with 16.
"Brandi was playing great defense, the block, those things were good," said head coach Kevin Hambly. "I thought we did a nice job of creating deflections, and you can tell, if Brandi ends up being the libero, she's going to be a great defensive player and at times she can be a good passer, but she's still a rookie trying to figure it out.
"You saw that Roustio can score points at times, and you saw Michelle [Strizak] was high, flying around making plays."
The Illini open the 2014 regular season at home on Friday, Aug. 29, when they host Long Beach State in the Illini Classic, also featuring No. 20 North Carolina and Southern Illinois. The ninth-annual Stuff Huff promotion is set for the Illini's opener, with pregame entertainment beginning at 5:30 p.m. and the match starting at 7 p.m.