Women's Volleyball
Illini Fall in Hard-Fought Skirmish at Purdue

Erin Johnson recorded her 400th career block tonight against Purdue
Erin Johnson recorded her 400th career block tonight against Purdue

Sept. 29, 2012

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West Lafayette, Ind. - The No. 21 University of Illinois volleyball team clashed with No. 13 Purdue this evening in a top-25 Big Ten showdown. The Illini hit a season-best .370, but service errors plagued the Orange and Blue, who dropped a heartbreaker to the Boilermakers, 3-2 (25-20, 22-25, 25-20, 10-25, 15-9). Purdue improves to 12-2 on the season and is one of just two teams to remain undefeated in the Big Ten through the first four matches, while the Illini drop to 8-6 (2-2 Big Ten).

Redshirt freshman Jocelynn Birks notched her fifth 20-kill match of her rookie season, earning a double-double with 20 kills and 10 digs, while recording a career-best five blocks including her first block solo. Classmate Ali Stark registered her second double-double with 13 kills and 11 digs, and Liz McMahon capped off a dominant offensive weekend with 17 kills.

Anna Dorn once again hit over .400, recording 14 kills and five blocks while attacking at a .478 clip, and Annie Luhrsen was a dig shy of a double-double with a season-best 62 assists and nine digs. Defensive specialist Jennifer Beltran registered 17 digs, and senior Erin Johnson notched her 400th career block, with three on the night to go along with six kills.

2011 Big Ten Player of the Year Ariel Turner led the match with 25 kills and added nine digs, while freshman outside hitter Annie Drews put up 13 kills. Carly Cramer had a team-high 15 digs, and Rachel Davis registered 50 assists.

As a team, the Illini hit a season-best .370 and out-blocked the Boilermakers 10-4, but tied their season high with 14 service errors, as compared to just four by Purdue.

The Illini started the match off with a service error, and the Boilermakers used it to their advantage, soon opening up an 11-6 lead. Purdue continued to drive, earning a 19-13 lead off a kill by Annie Drews. An Illinois timeout gave the Orange and Blue and chance to regroup, winning the next four straight points with Courtney Abrahamovich behind the service line to pull within two, down 19-17. However, Drews slammed three-straight kills to lift the Boilermakers to a 22-17 advantage, and though the Illini mustered three more points, Drews tacked on another pair of kills to win the first set, 25-20.

After trailing 2-1, the Illini used a block by Dorn and Stark to light a fire, winning six of the next seven points to lead 7-3. A block by Jones and Nichol pushed the momentum in Purdue's favor, who won the next four straight and tied it at seven. The two teams traded points over the next nine plays, but the Illini never fell behind, and finally found a two-point lead, 14-12, off a Dorn kill. The Boilermakers did not allow the Illini to run away with it, but were unable to force another tie in the set, and soon the Orange and Blue had a set point, up 24-20. Kills by Jones and Turner kept Purdue alive, but Liz McMahon finished it off with her 11th kill of the night, to even the match with a 25-22 victory.

Neither team established a clear advantage in the third set, and soon the score read 7-7. A kill by Catherine Rebarchak sparked a 3-0 run for the Boilermakers, and the narrow lead was enough for Purdue to hang on for the set win. Ali Stark earned the next three Illini kills, but neither team was able to string together a real run, as Turner closed out the set with a kill to win it for the Boilermakers, 25-20.

The Illini turned it up in the fourth set, knocking down six blocks, including the first solo blocks of the year for Birks and Luhrsen, to power past the Boilermakers 25-10. Anna Dorn slammed six kills in the set, scoring three of the first five points, as Illinois took a 5-0 lead. The early advantage was plenty for the Illini, who won the set by their largest margin of victory since defeating Ohio State, 25-9, in the second set of a 3-0 victory on Sept. 25, 2010.

The Boilermakers returned to the court for the fifth set a new team, as Annie Drews knocked down the first kill of the frame. A service error handed the ball to Illinois, but Drews scored another for Purdue to make it 2-1. On the next play, Dorn's dunk shot landed just shy of the top of the net, but she followed it up with a kill to make it 3-2. A service error by Beltran made it 4-2, and Turner solidified the Boilermakers' lead with a kill, up 5-2. Following an Illinois timeout, McMahon slammed down a kill, but Turner replied to make it 6-3. Johnson made an error but followed it with a kill, and then Turner followed an error with a kill to make it 8-5. Luhrsen's attack landed out of bounds, but a Birks-Johnson block kept Illinois in it, 9-6. Abrahamovich served the next ball into the net, and after a Birks kill made it 10-7, a third Illini service error set up the win for Purdue, as Turner landed the final three kills to earn a 15-7 victory.

Illinois will return home next weekend to host No. 22 Ohio State and No. 1 Penn State in Big Ten action at Huff Hall. Friday night's match with the Buckeyes will be the Illini's annual Breast Cancer Awareness match, so come wearing pink to support the cause. The team will be wearing pink jerseys that were auctioned off last weekend to raise money for the Young Survival Coalition.  Illinois will face Ohio State at 7 p.m. on Friday and the top-ranked Nittany Lions at 7 p.m. on Saturday. Both matches will be streamed live on BTN.com as Student U broadcasts.