Jennifer Beltran broke Illinois' all-time career digs record in tonight's win.
Oct. 12, 2013
Bloomington, Ind. - The University of Illinois volleyball team captured a solid road victory tonight with a 3-0 defeat of Indiana in University Gym. The Illini led for the majority of each set, but Indiana put up late runs in all three, for set scores of 25-22, 25-23 and 25-20. With the win, the Illini return home with a 3-3 Big Ten record, sitting at 7-9 overall, while Indiana drops its eighth straight match to fall to 8-9 (0-6 Big Ten).
With 11 digs in the match, senior libero Jennifer Beltran passed Ashley Edinger '09 to take over the Illinois record for career digs, increasing her total to 1,929 and moving into a tie for eighth all-time in Big Ten history.
"To be honest, I owe it all to my teammates," said Beltran. "They make it easy for me to play behind them up there. I'm just working hard and trying to do the best that I can for my team. I always just play as hard as I can and try to get as many digs as possible to help the team be successful."
"She's a stud," said Head Coach Kevin Hambly. "It's not surprising. When she came in, I figured she would be the leader, that she'd take over that record. She's a great defensive player. We funnel everything to her. Everyone we play knows that and they know that they're going to have to attack her, and she makes plays.
"I'm excited that we have her for the rest of the season. I'm going to miss her when she's gone, but I'm going to enjoy it while she's here."
The Fighting Illini were incredibly efficient on offense, hitting a season-best .378 with just six errors in the match as compared to 27 and a .174 clip by the Hoosiers. Jocelynn Birks led the match with 15 kills, hitting a season-best .406 while leading the match in attacks. It is the third time in her career that she has hit over .400 and the first time since Sept. 7, 2012, when she hit .449 with 25 kills at Cincinnati.
Junior outside Liz McMahon hit .400 with seven kills, and OH Morganne Criswell and middles Anna Dorn and Maddie Mayers each had five kills apiece, as Dorn hit .667. Setter Alexis Viliunas registered 33 assists.
"I thought that we attacked really well," said Hambly. "We were very low error. I thought (Alexis) had one of her best matches; I thought she had a really good weekend, actually. She kept us in rhythm a lot.
"We could have passed better, certainly. We got into some trouble and we had some balls there, defensively, that I thought we could have gotten."
The Illini blockers put up 12.0 stuffs in the match, the most in a 3-set match since 2011. Mayers was at the forefront of the unit with six, while Dorn and Criswell each had four, including two solo blocks for Criswell, the first two of her career.
Beltran led the back row defense with 11 digs and Birks was close behind with eight.
The Hoosiers led a balanced attack, spread mainly among their three middle blockers. Chante George and Jordan Haverly each had 11 kills, Awele Nwaeze had 10 and Champaign native Morgan Leach put up eight. Despite a team efficiency of .174, George was very effective on the attack, hitting .444.
"They've got really explosive middles and attackers, and if we took the pressure off for one second they would take advantage of it," said Hambly. "I thought we pressured them enough with our serves and our block that it gave us an opportunity to win."
Indiana libero Caitlin Hansen led the match with 15 digs and the Hoosiers tabbed four service aces, including two by Kyndall Merritt.
The Illini jumped out to a 3-0 lead to begin the match, and maintained a small advantage through the majority of the set. A pair of Indiana runs gave the Hoosiers chances to tie it, but both ended with a service error to keep Illinois on top. A late Illini attack error allowed Indiana to tie the score at 21, but kills by Birks and Criswell put the Orange and Blue right back ahead, and a Hoosier error closed out the frame for Illinois, 25-22.
Indiana led early in the second set, but a late Illini run thanks to three big blocks put the Orange and Blue ahead 21-16. After calling timeout, the Hoosiers exploded out of the break to win six of the next seven points and tie the score at 22. A clutch block by McMahon and Mayers put Illinois back on top and Birks made it Illini set point with her 10th kill of the night. A swing by Anderson erased Illinois' first attempt, but Birks did it again on the next play, sealing up the second set, 25-23, to give the Illini a 2-0 advantage in the match.
The Illini began the third set with a 7-2 lead, then extended it to 13-5. Indiana hung tough, pulling back within four, 14-10, with some strong serving, but the Illini pushed right back ahead, 19-11. The Hoosiers had another push to make it 21-16, but Illinois finished out the sweep with a 25-20 victory, sealed up with a Birks kill.
"Overall, it was nice to get a win on the road," Hambly said. "It was an important win for us. They competed hard, for the most part. We still could be better."
The Illini return home to host No. 5 Penn State in a Big Ten matchup on Friday, Oct. 18. The match will air live on the Big Ten Network beginning at 7 p.m. CT.