Rachel VanMeter had a career-high 23 kills as Illinois beat #11 Penn State 3-1 Friday night at Huff Hall.
Oct. 10, 2003
Champaign, Ill. -
In front of a season-high crowd of 1,435 fans at Huff Hall, Illinois handed 11th-ranked and Big Ten leader Penn State its first conference loss of the season as the Illini prevailed in four games by the score of 27-30, 30-19, 30-20, 30-26. With the win, Illinois earns its first victory of the year in three tries over a ranked opponent and improves to 12-3 on the season and 3-2 in Big Ten play. Penn State, meanwhile, drops to 15-2 overall and 4-1 in the league.
In a showdown of two of the Big Ten's top defensive teams, Illinois' offense rose to the challenge while keeping Penn State in check. The Nittany Lions, who entered the match ranked first in the conference with a team hitting percentage of .308, could manage an attack percentage of just .131 against the Illini, who lead the league in opponent hitting percentage. Penn State ranks second behind Illinois in opponent hitting, but the Lions could not slow down the potent UI attack as Illinois hit an impressive .300 on the night and racked up 21 more kills than the visitors (74-to-53 Illini advantage).
Leading the way for the Illini offensively was sophomore outside hitter Rachel VanMeter. VanMeter recorded a career-high 23 kills, eclipsing the 20-kill marker for the first time in her career. She hit .300 on the night, with eight errors in 50 attempts. VanMeter becomes the second Illini player this season to tally 20+ kills in a match, joining Lisa Argabright's 21 kills vs. Akron on Sept. 13.
Speaking of Argabright, the senior middle blocker was also a dominant force in the match, finishing with 16 kills on .429 hitting with a match-high seven blocks. Junior right side hitter Jessica Belter turned in another double-double with 14 kills and 14 digs, hitting .379 for the match.
Illinois also held a commanding 20-dig advantage over Penn State while racking up a season-high 80 digs. The Illini had four players tally double figures in digs, led by junior libero Lauren Harks who tied her season high with 19 digs. Freshman defensive specialist Beth Vrdsky also gave Illinois' back row defense a spark as she racked up a career-high 12 digs.
Setter Erin Virtue set a career-high 65 assists in directing Illinois' offense to its .300 hitting percentage. The junior also added three kills, two aces, 12 digs and two blocks in the victory.
"I feel like this is a break-out win for our team," Head Coach Don Hardin said. "We've been knocking on the door against ranked teams this season, but this is the first time we've broken through. Our middle attack is usually the strength of our team, but I thought we really won the battle on the outside tonight. Rachel VanMeter was sensational and we received excellent play from Jess Belter on the right side. Altogether, it was a very spirited performance by our team."
Illinois is back in action Saturday night, hosting Ohio State at 7 p.m. at Huff Hall. Fans attending the Illinois-Michigan State football game can bring their ticket stub to receive free admission to the volleyball match.