Aug. 27, 2010
CHAMPAIGN, Ill.- After dropping the first set 27-25 to an aggressive BYU team in the first match of the season and the State Farm Illini Classic, Illinois needed a spark, something to settle the team down. Enter junior Colleen Ward, playing her first match in an Illinois uniform after transferring from Florida. Ward put forth a serving barrage that led to a standing ovation from the 2,688 fans at Huff. She served 11 straight points, including eight on aces in set two as Illinois rebounded for a 25-27, 25-9, 25-16, 25-16 victory.
"I don't know if I've ever seen a jump server make that many serves in a row, much less put so much pressure on the opponent," Illinois head coach Kevin Hambly said. "It certainly changed the complexion of the match."
"It was exciting for sure," Ward said. "But every time I got an ace and we got a point, I had to flush it out pretty quickly and move on to the next one."
After turning the corner, Ward and senior Laura DeBruler led an offensive assault that saw Illinois hit .412, .300 and .364 in the final set while limiting BYU to .000, .038 and .071 in those same sets. Ward had 14 of her team-leading 19 kills in the final two sets, including nine in set four. DeBruler, meanwhile had seven kills in nearly leading a comeback in the first set en route to a .282 average and 19 kills.
It was the aces that will be most memorable. Ward had nine such for the match, setting a new Huff Hall and Illinois single-match record, breaking the old mark of eight set by Kathleen Bazzetta and Sue Nucci. The Illini had 16 aces as a team, one shy of the school record, but more than the old Huff Hall and Illini Classic mark of 15 set vs. Nebraska in 1992. BYU had eight aces as well giving the teams a combined 24, breaking the Huff Hall combined mark by two.
BYU wasn't fazed by the crowd at the start, jumping to a 7-2 lead and forcing Illinois to call a quick timeout. DeBruler nearly willed Illinois to the first set with some big swings with Erin Johnson and Johannah Bangert leading some key blocks as Illinois rallied from 20-14 down to tie it at 24 before BYU's Taeja Afalava served an ace to put the set in the Cougars' column.
Following Ward's ace assault, the Illini were in control most of the rest of the way. Freshman Jennifer Bonilla, starting at libero, was aced just once and led the team with 17 digs. Senior Hillary Haen had 46 assists and engineered an offensive attack that included several decisive swings from the back row.
"We turned it on after that and really found our rhythm," DeBruler said.
"We hit .300 the last three sets and started hitting like we usually hit and blocking like we usually block," Hambly added.
Illinois trailed just twice the rest of the way and both were early in the sets - 2-1 in set two and 1-0 in set four. Illinois slowly built its lead in set three from 12-11 to 18-13 to 20-15. Bonilla served the final four points of the set. DeBruler and Haen each served three straight points as Illinois emerged from a tight 14-11 lead in set four to the win by out-scoring BYU 11-5 the rest of the way.
Illinois plays South Carolina at 10 am and Middle Tennessee State at 7 pm. MTSU won the first match of the night 25-23, 25-12, 25-23.