Stephanie Alde led a balanced Illinois attack vs. Loyola
Sept. 3, 2006
Milwaukee, Wis. - Stephanie Alde had a career high 15 kills pacing three Illinois players in double figures as the Illini defeated Loyola (Chicago) 30-22, 22-30, 30-20, 30-13 in the final match of the Marquette Kick-Off Tournament. The victory improves Illinois' overall record to 6-0 and clinches the second consecutive tournament title for the Illini.
Four Illinois players were named to All-Tournament, paced for the second straight week by Vicki Brown, who earned her second consecutive MVP honor. Brown continued to hit with accuracy on Sunday with 10 kills and a .348 attack percentage. The big numbers for Brown actually came in Friday and Saturday's matches where she hit a robust .667 with 18 kills in a four-game win over Ole Miss, and .522 with 15 kills in a sweep of host Marquette.
For the second straight week, red shirt sophomore Kayani Turner and freshman libero Ashley Edinger were also named to the All-Tournament team, this weekend joined by sophomore teammate, Lizzie Bazzetta, who had spectacular weekend at setter. On Sunday vs. Loyola, Bazzetta had a double double with 45 assists and 13 digs, while Edinger was on her game in the back row with a career-best 31 digs. For the weekend Edinger averaged 6.5 digs per game, while Bazzetta had a 151 assists and totaled a pair of double doubles.
Two of the big reasons for Illinois' early success was evident in Sunday's win over Loyola. First, through Turner and Brown have consistently led the Illini in kills, they have spearheaded a balanced attack. Four Illini reached double figures in kills vs. Loyola with Turner (14 kills), Palash (10 kills) and Brown (10) following Alde's lead. Palash also had four of Illinois' 11 aces.
"Amy (Palash) has gone from being a weaker server to one of our best," said Illinois head coach Don Hardin. "She's a very coachable athlete and is able to execute under pressure. She is becoming a steady force for us."
Second, Illinois has shown a fighting spirit. Down four times in the first game, the Illini came roaring back with an 11-3 run that turned a one-point deficit into a 27-20 advantage. Alde had three kills in the rally. In game two, Illinois dug themselves into a 9-0 hole, only to close to within 14-13 as Turner came through with three kills and served three points in the assault. The Illini tied the score at 20-20 on a kill from senior middle blocker Meghan Macdonald. Although Loyola closed out the game, 30-22, the Illini set the stage to dominate the final two games.
"I thought Loyola played us very well," Hardin said. "They're a well-coached team and could have easily folded at certain points in the match, but they kept on fighting."
Turned served eight straight points early in the third game as Illinois built a 9-2 cushion behind the arm of Alde. With the score tied at eight in game four, Palash served up six straight points as the Illini built a 14-8 advantage. Turner nearly served out the remainder of the match as Illinois scored ten straight points on the Turner serve, three coming on service aces as the Illini led 29-12 en route to closing out the match.
Illinois will take a perfect record into next weekend's tournament at North Carolina, which features three NCAA teams from a year ago, including the College of Charleston, who lost just once during the regular season and advanced to the NCAA second round in 2005.
"We'll be seeing a lot of great competition in Carolina," Hardin said. "All of the teams we'll see in that tournament will be a step up in the athletic ability that we've have seen so far."