Ali Stark recorded a career-high 11 digs this morning against UCF
Sept. 15, 2012
Austin, Texas - After an exhilarating 5-set victory over No. 6 Texas the previous night, the Illini returned to Gregory Gym on Saturday morning to face the UCF Knights in the Time Warner Texas Invitational. In their first meeting with Central Florida, the Illini cruised to a 3-0 (25-17, 25-15, 25-12) victory behind consistent attacking, strong serving and a solid back line. The win lifts the Illini to 5-4 (0-0 Big Ten), while UCF drops to 3-8 (0-0 C-USA).
For the second-straight match, Jocelynn Birks recorded a double-double, leading the Illini in both kills (15) and digs (12), and added a pair of service aces. After hitting .706 against Texas, sophomore middle blocker Anna Dorn hit .636 with eight kills on 11 attacks, and added five blocks. Setter Annie Luhrsen notched 27 assists and hit .833 with five kills on six touches, and had an additional seven digs. Sophomore Liz McMahon stayed strong at the net, scoring five blocks, one solo, and six kills, and redshirt freshman Ali Stark earned her first double-digit dig match, with 11. Additionally, Jessica Jendryk and Tayler Onion got into the action for the first time this season, as Jendryk notched her first career kill.
As a team, the Illini earned their highest hitting percentage of the season, going .348, while holding the Knights to just .031. Illinois was also strong from the serving line, serving up five aces while incurring just four errors to earn more aces than errors for the first time this season. After the win, the Illini are now 11-1 all-time against current members of Conference USA.
The first set relied heavily on serves, as both teams recorded three aces and two errors to account for a total of 10 points. Marie Reiterova opened the match with a service error, followed by an ace from Erin Johnson. After Ashley Gialenios registered the first kill of the match, she stepped behind the line and served up an ace. Three plays later, Ali Stark dropped in an ace, which started a six-point run for the Illini, including two big blocks, to give Illinois a comfortable, 9-4 lead. UCF heated up late in the set, pulling within two, 17-15, but a kill and an ace by Birks gave U of I their momentum back, as the Illini closed out the first set, 25-17.
Jocelynn Birks turned up the heat in the second set, registering seven of the Illini's 11 kills. The redshirt freshman scored the first point of the frame, and Ali Stark followed it up with an ace. After a Gialenios kill, Johnson regained Illinois possession with a kill and tacked on an ace of her own to make it 4-1. The Knights fought back to climb within one, 7-6, but the Illini opened it right back up, 11-7. Six more kills from Birks made it 21-14, and McMahon and Dorn finished off the frame with a block, to win it 25-15.
The Illini found a groove in the third set, opening up an early 11-5 lead and running away with it to close out the match with a 25-12 win. Birks had another six kills in the frame to complete her second double-double of the weekend, and Stark laid down five digs to hit double digits for the first time.
Illinois returns to the court tonight at 7 p.m. to take on Cincinnati in the final match of the Time Warner Cable Texas Invitational. The Illini defeated the Bearcats, 3-1, last Friday night in Cincinnati at the Big Ten/BIG EAST Challenge. Tonight's match will be broadcast on the Illini Radio Network on WDWS AM 1400 in Champaign and online at http://bit.ly/O8NDJm. GameTracker can be found here, and you can follow @IlliniVBall on Twitter for in-game updates from press row.