Hillary Haen has helped lead a balanced Illinois attack
Oct. 10, 2009
Champaign, Ill. - The Illini block is starting to return to 2008 form. Illinois, who ranked 15th in the nation last season, once again used the block to handle Indiana Saturday night. Paced by six block assists from junior Johannah Bangert, the Illini out-blocked Indiana, 9.5-5 en route to a straight sets 25-20, 25-21, 25-22 victory in front of 1,608 at Huff Hall.
A night after tying the Illinois single-match record with 13 block assists, Bangert added offensive power to her gaudy blocking numbers as she hit .800 with eight kills. Taking away the Penn State match, Illinois has out-blocked its last five opponents two to one (75.5-37).
"I'm starting to connect with Hillary which is tougher for me since I am more of a blocker," Bangert said. "I think tonight we did a lot of things well, though, and it was more of a team effort."
No. 12 Illinois improves to 4-2 in the Big Ten and 12-3 overall. The Hoosiers fall to 13-6, 2-3 in the conference. The Illini are also 6-1 at Huff Hall on the season with their only loss to no. 1 Penn State.
Illinois got a double-double from junior Laura DeBruler - 12 kills and 24 digs -- with fellow outside hitter Kylie McCulley adding eight blocks and nine digs. The steadying force for the Illini has been junior setter Hillary Haen, who had another impressive night with 31 assists, nine digs, and two key kills while ranking second on the team in blocks with four. Haen engineered another balanced Illinois attack where Michelle Bartsch (7 kills) led in attacks with 30 while DeBruler and Kylie McCulley (8 kills, 9 digs) had 27 swings.
"Anytime you come out of a Big Ten weekend with two wins you have to be pleased," said Illinois head coach Kevin Hambly. "We still need to cut down on our hitting errors, but we're getting back to keeping rallies going and setting up our block to end the point."
Illinois out-dug Indiana, 49-35 and forced 23 Indiana hitting errors all while being aced just once. The Illini also neutralized one of the top hitters in the conference in Ashley Benson, holding the junior to just nine kills. Kelci Marshall was the only Indiana player in double figures with 10 kills.
Illinois controlled the first two sets then had to rally in the third. The Illini jumped to an 11-7 advantage in the first set and never trailed. Senior libero Ashley Edinger served three straight points, including an ace to put the Illini comfortably in front at 22-16. The Illini broke open a 10-10 second set score with a 6-2 rally and Indiana was never able to get closer than three after that.
At times it looked as if Indiana may take the third set, leading 14-12 and 16-14, but Illinois stormed back. Bangert teamed first with Bartsch then with McCulley on the block to give Illinois a 21-18 lead. Indiana closed to within 22-21, forcing an Illinois timeout, but the Illini scored on a big swing from DeBruler and a service ace from Bartsch in taking three of the final four points of the match.
Illinois hosts first Northwestern on Wednesday in the Dig Pink match, then No. 5 Minnesota in the "Spike the Record" match at Illini Madness on Friday, Oct. 16.