Rachel VanMeter had a whale of a night vs. the Gophers.
Oct. 15, 2005
Champaign, Ill. - With students chanting VAN-METER, VAN-METER back and forth, the Illini senior Rachel VanMeter delivered with 28 kills, nine digs, seven, blocks and four aces. As a team Illinois gave the ninth-ranked team in the nation all it could ask for on Saturday night for a nationally televised audience. In the end the Gophers eked out a 30-27, 30-27, 24-30, 30-21 victory in front 1714 spectators at Huff Hall. The match will be shown Sunday at 1:30 p.m. on ESPN2.
VanMeter came into the match third in the nation in kills at 5.65 per game and bettered that by averaging 7.0 per game against Minnesota. Illinois became the first team to hit over .200 against the Gophers this season, not even No. 1 Nebraska or No. 8 Wisconsin could say that. The Illini hit .205 paced by a .444 average from Vicki Brown.
Illinois falls to 11-8 overall, 2-6 in the Big Ten. Minnesota improves to 16-3, 6-2 in the league.
After the match, Illinois Coach Don Hardin left little doubt about his analysis. "When we were passing the way we were capable of, we won the points at the net. Paula Gentil is one of the top liberos in the country and Rachel went right after her."
Despite being down two games to none at intermission, the Illini delivered several rivoting plays that brought the partisan crowd to its feet.
"Lizzie did a great of distributing the offense," Hardin said. "The majority of the sets went to Rachel who obviously had the hot hand, but the offense ran the way it is supposed to when the passes were there."
Illinois fell behind 20-13 in game one, but the Illini rallied back to tie the game at 26-26. Bazzetta served up four straight points, including a service ace to cut the gap to 25-23. A Turner kill helped get the serve back and VanMeter tied the score with an ace on Gentil. Minnesota closed out the game with a 4-1 run.
Game two was competitive throughout and provided the fans with some exciting volleyball. The game had eight ties and three lead changes. The Illini forced the Gophers to hit just .045, but Minnesota prevailed by a narrow 30-27 margin.
The Illini finally were able to break through in game three. Trailing 14-10, Illinois rallied back to tie at 20.VanMeter was unbelievable in the game with nine kills, four digs, and a service ace. VanMeter's kill from the back row made it 26-22 Illinois and the Illini pushed through from there, hitting .381 in the game.
Minnesota's ranking finally shown through in the third game. The Gophers jumped to a 17-10 lead and the lead never was under six the rest of the way. Minnesota hit .469 paced by five from Sarah Florian and five from Jessy Jones. Florian led the Gophers with 20 kills on the night and Minnesota hit .248 on the night. Gentil managed just 13 digs. Minnesota out-blocked Illinois 15-10. VanMeter's four solo blocks and three block assists led the way.
"Rachel was outstanding tonight," Hardin said. "She led by example in all phases of the game."