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    Long Beach State Hands Illinois First Loss in Comeback Victory
    Sophomore Kathryn Polkoff had two blocks in the fourth set in her first career match for the Illini.

    Sophomore Kathryn Polkoff had two blocks in the fourth set in her first career match for the Illini.

    Aug 31, 2013

    Box Score

    Long Beach, Calif. – The Illini won the first four sets of the season, but after sweeping No. 18 Florida State earlier in the day, Illinois was unable to keep it going against the host team, falling to Long Beach State, 3-1. Illinois easily won the first set, 25-16, but the 49ers continually gained momentum throughout the match, claiming the next three sets, 25-19, 25-22, 25-17. With the win, LBSU opens the year 1-0, while Illinois drops to 1-1.

    Liz McMahon was the offensive star for the Illini, tallying 18 kills and hitting .350, while Jocelynn Birks had her second double-digit kill match with 14 to go along with seven digs.

    The Illini block was on point in the match, as the team put together 13 blocks over the four sets, including seven from redshirt freshman middle Maddie Mayers.

    Freshman Katie Stadick started in the middle for her first career appearance, getting the nod over junior Anna Dorn who missed the whole spring due to knee surgery. Dorn played the full match against Florida State earlier in the day, but Head Coach Kevin Hambly decided to give Stadick the job in the night cap.

    When the Illini fell far behind in the fourth set, two additional Illini made their debuts for the Orange and Blue, Kathryn Polkoff and Katie Roustio. Polkoff, a sophomore middle blocker who did not see any playing time in 2012, came in late in the fourth and put up two blocks. Roustio subbed in at a similar time for setter Alexis Viliunas to provide an extra blocker up front during a rough slide.

    Viliunas registered 32 assists and six digs in the match, while libero Jennifer Beltran recorded 16 digs and six assists.

    Delainey Aigner-Swesey and Chisom Okpala led the Long Beach State offense, as Aigner-Swesey hit .312 with 15 kills and 13 digs while Okpala tabbed 11 kills and hit .474. Sophomore Alex Reid had a double-double with 13 kills and 13 digs to go along with three blocks, and 2011 All-America Honorable Mention Haleigh Hampton, who missed all of 2012 with an injury, returned to the court to record 11 kills and six blocks. Erin Juley, who also sat out the majority of last season, had a double-double with 46 assists and 12 digs.

    The first set belonged to the Illini, who opened the match up 6-3 and continued to extend their lead throughout the set, winning handily, 25-16.  The Illini outhit the 49ers .375 to .182 in the frame and registered a 94% sideout percentage, keeping LBSU from ever making a run.

    The tables turned in the second set, as Long Beach State won the first two points and never relinquished their lead for the remainder of the set. After the Illini trailed 16-10, Illinois pulled within two, 18-16, driven by three kills by McMahon, but the 49ers would not allow the Illini any closer, winning the next three points and eventually taking the set, 25-19. After hitting .375 in the first set, Illinois was held to a .111 clip in the second, and despite having more attack errors, LBSU held the efficiency edge at .206.

    Set three was as tight as a set could ever be, as the score was tied at every point between 6-6 and 18-18. A kill by Mayers and a pair of 49er errors gave the Illini the largest lead to that point, 21-18, seemingly taking hold of the set, however LBSU came back to win seven of the next eight points thanks to two kills and two blocks by Hampton, to win the third 25-22 and take a 2-1 lead in the match.

    The wheels came off in the fourth set, as the Illini quickly found themselves in a huge hole, down 18-7, after an unprecedented 8-0 run served out by Aigner-Swesey and including four kills and a block by Reid. Polkoff, Morganne Criswell and Roustio all made it into the match at that point, and despite a late run, the Orange and Blue were unable to overcome the enormous deficit, dropping the set, 25-17, and taking their first match loss of the season.

    The Illini are back in action on Saturday, when they complete the round robin at the Long Beach State Mizuno Invitational by taking on No. 17 Kentucky, who fell, 3-0, to Florida State between Illinois’ two matches. Match time is set for 6:30 p.m. CT and can be heard over the airwaves on WDWS 1400 AM with Dave Loane and Marla Glasser on the call.

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