Illini stuff Marquette
Sept. 7, 2007
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - After two weeks on the road to start the season, the Illini returned home for its first regular season match at Huff Hall Friday night. The event for the second year in a row promoted as `Stuff Huff' drew an electrifying crowd of 2,287. The throng of orange clad supporters spurred Illinois to a 30-24, 30-22, 30-24 victory over Marquette in the first round of the 24th Annual State Farm Illini Classic.
With the Illini playing without sophomore outside hitter Kylie McCulley (foot stress fracture) and senior right side hitter Stefanie Alde (back), Illinois rallied to hit .268 as a team and post a perfect 1.000 serve reception percentage in 64 chances.
Freshman Laura DeBruler took 42 swings in the three-game sweep and hit .381 with a match-high 19 kills in her first regular season home match. Junior setter Lizzie Bazzetta had 46 assists, feeding some nice balls to senior middle hitter Vicki Brown, who tallied 11 kills while hitting .286.
As she did in the first match of the year against Bowling Green, senior hitter Amy Palash came up with some big swings filling in for McCulley. Palash reached double figures with 10 kills. Freshman Nicole Kump was impressive on the right side, hitting .357 with eight kills.
"I don't recall a pair of freshmen coming out in their first home match and hitting .300 like Laura and Nicole did tonight," said Illinois head coach Don Hardin. "Those are impressive numbers against anybody. We really relied on the ball high to outside to Laura tonight, but she can handle it."
Illinois (5-2) meets Creighton (4-3), a 30-25, 30-24, 30-22 victor over Tennessee (4-2), in the title match Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. Marquette (2-4) plays the Lady Vols in the consolation match at noon.
The Illini freshmen, especially, responded to the raucous environment. "At first I was taken back by it, but after awhile I just embraced it said alright let's have some fun," DeBruler said.
"It was really fun being at home," added Bazzeta. "I think that energized everyone to play well."
Illinois used the crowd to burst to a 4-2 start in game, but saw Marquette take leads of 10-8 and 11-10. The Illini retook the lead for good at 12-11 and separated themselves at 22-18 thanks to a pair of kills from Brown off the serve of Johannah Bangert. DeBruler hit .455 with five kills in game one, tying for the team lead in kills with Palash. Illinois led by as many as seven at 26-19 before closing out the game at 30-24.
The Illini trailed just twice in the second game while hitting .302. Kristine Anderson had some big serves late in that game to help put the Illini up by a comfortable 26-19 margin.
Sophomore libero Ashley Edinger responded nicely to a different look Eagle attack in game three. Edinger finished with a match high 18 digs. The Illini also heated up offensively, hitting .500 through the first 20 points and finishing with a .317 clip for the game. Edinger served up her second ace of the night on match point.