Jazmine Orozco had five kills in seven attacks vs. BYU.
Aug. 26, 2011
Provo, Utah. - A big crowd greeted the Fighting Illini at Smith Fieldhouse Friday in the season opener. BYU put forth a valiant effort, especially in set one, but in the end No. 8 Illinois posted a season-opening 28-26, 25-22, 25-16 victory over the host Cougars in front of boisterous crowd of over 2,700. That marked the 11th straight year that Illinois has won an opener. All-American outside hitter Michelle Bartsch and Colleen Ward paced the way with 13 and 10 kills, respectively. Illinois had to rally to win set one, but was in control for most of the final two sets.
BYU had a big presence from 6-6 sophomore Jennifer Hamson, who had eight of her match-high 17 kills in the first set while hitting .310 for the match. The Illini were able to slow down the BYU left side, which hit negative for the match.
Sophomore Jazmine Orozco came up big for the Illini. Hitting from both the right and left side, Orozco came off the bench to hit .714 with five kills and a block as Illinois shook off some first-match jitters. In the third set, Illinois got a strong performance from both of their middle hitters. Junior Erin Johnson had five her nine kills in the third set to go along with four blocks on the night. Redshirt freshman Anna Dorn had five kills and three blocks for the match while hitting .500.
"I think our fans are going to enjoy this team and the big reason is because we get contributions from a lot of players," said Illinois head coach Kevin Hambly. "I thought what Jaz was able to do to help pull us through that first set was huge. We weren't going to take her out after that because she was playing great."
Junior Annie Luhrsen made her first start in an Illinois uniform and tallied 37 kills and five digs. Luhrsen along with Johnson were critical in helping slow down the BYU outsider hitters, with three block assists.
Illinois held just one lead until late in the first set. The Illini had three hitting errors early as BYU took a 3-0 and trailed just once until late in the set. The Cougars used the arm Hamson with several first-ball side-outs. Hamson paced BYU with eight kills while hitting .400. Illinois senior defensive specialist Rachel Feldman scored on a couple of broken plays as Illinois took a 15-14 lead, but BYU responded by going back in front. The set was tied 10 times from the 11-11 point onward. The Illini were finally able to get the outside attack going with Ward and Bartsch contributing four kills apiece. Illinois staved off two sets points before taking a 26-25 lead. Johnson gave the Illini the lead for good at 27-26 on a back slide then teamed with Luhrsen for a block in the deciding point of the set.
The Illini were able to slow down the attack of Hamson somewhat in the second set, forcing the BYU to hit just .129. Bartsch had six kills in the set. The Illini led 17-12, but BYU cut the gap to 17-16 before the Illini were able to put it away. The Illini served tough late in the set. Junior setter Annie Luhrsen had an ace to give the Illini a 21-19 lead and Ward served a pair points to the give Illinois a commanding 24-21 cushion.
Illinois hit .344 in dominating the third set. The Illini built leads of 12-8 and 19-9 in pulling away.
Illinois meets St. Mary's (1 p.m. CT) and UCSB (6 p.m.) Saturday in the final day of the tournament.