Illinois Wins NIU Tournament Opener
Dekalb, Ill. Illinois kicked off the Northern Illinois Tournament Friday morning defeating Austin Peay in four games by the score of 30-14, 30-25, 32-34, 30-28. What looked to be an easy victory after taking a 2-0 lead turned into a very competitive match throughout the final three games.
The Illini had to find a way to face Austin Peay the first three games without senior Rachel VanMeter, who was injured after taking a ball off the face when going up for a block early in game one. She would not return until the final points of the third game. With the offense of senior Rasa Virsilaite (15 kills), freshman Kayani Turner (16 kills) and junior Meghan Macdonald (13 kills), the Orange and Blue were able to face the challenge and win the game 30-14. Virsilaite finished the first game with six kills.
VanMeter returned for the final points of game three and was dominating in game four, hitting from both the front and back row for 13 of her 16 kills in the fourth game alone.
Sophomore Stephanie Obermeier started at setter and played games one, two, and four to lead the Illini with 44 assists. Libero Beth Vrdsky posted a career-high 23 digs while Virsilaite, who hit a combined .400 with just one hitting error in the first two games, had a double-double with 10 digs to go along with her 15 kills.
The Illini dominated the first game, winning 30-14 behind a .421 hitting percentage. Virsilaite had five kills in the first frame. Illinois started the second game with a 2-0 lead, but did not regain the lead until late in the match when they took the lead at 25-24. They went on to win the next five points to win the match. The Illini's offense was led by the arm of Turner, who six kills in game two.
Neither team led by more than three points in a very tight third game. The Illini built a 4-1 lead, but Austin Peay stormed back to take a 10-8 advantage. Back-to-back kills from Virsilaite and Macdonald tied the score at 28 late in the game. They were all tied up at 29, 30, 31, and 32. The Illini had one game point at 31-30, but Austin Peay scored the final three points of the game to win 34-32.
The fourth and final game of the match saw VanMeter return to the floor to lead the Illini to a 30-28 victory. She downed 13 of her 16 kills in the final game and finished the match with a .375 attacking percentage. The Illini hit .292 for thee match, while ustin Peay hit .170.
Illinois returns to Victor E. Court later today at 5 p.m. to face Indiana State in their second game of the Northern Illinois Tournament.