The victory over Indiana was a total team effort.
Oct. 21, 2006
Bloomington, Ind. - For a time it looked like a repeat performance from Friday night. In that match against Purdue, Illinois fell into a deep hole in game one and the Boilermakers won in three games. Saturday Illinois fell behind 20-6 in game, but this time nearly pulled out the victory in that game and dominated the final three games en route to a 26-30, 30-24, 30-16, 30-20 victory over Indiana. The Illini finish the first half of the Big Ten season 4-6 and improve to 13-7 overall. Indiana, which dropped its ninth straight, falls to 10-12, 1-9 in the league.
Much the same way she did six days earlier against Penn State, freshman Kylie McCulley came into the match in the middle of game one and was the top hitter for Illinois, finishing with a match-high and career-best 22 kills. McCulley entered the match for Kayani Turner, who started but left the match still nursing a leg injury.
Illinois nearly pulled an improbable comeback in the first game. Meghan Macdonald started the rally in that game as the Illini scored six straight points. When Amy Palash served an ace, the gap closed to 25-21 then three straight kills from McCulley brought Illinois to within 27-25 before the Hoosiers closed out the game.
The final three games were all Illinois as the Illini hit over .300 in each game -- .348 in game two, .351 in game three and .317 in game four. Illinois slowed down Indiana's top two hitters - Erica Short and Lauren Ditteon, who hit .163 and .182, respectively, after a fast start.
Offensively, McCulley led a balanced attack as five Illinois players reached double figures in kills. Senior Meghan Macdonald complimented McCulley's outside attack with 13 kills and a .611 attack percentage from the middle. Junior Stefanie Alde had one of the top matches of her career with 15 kills while hitting .360. After a slow start Vicki Brown ended with 13 kills an a .320 attack percentage, and Amy Palash had 11 kills and eight digs.
Despite hitting .700 in the early going, the Indiana attack slowed considerably, hitting just .065 in game three and .152 in game four. The Illinois serve-receive game was much improved over Friday, totaling seven aces, three by Palash and two straight off the arm of freshman Ashley Edinger. Indiana, meanwhile, managed just one ace on the night.
Illinois broke a 17-17 tie by out-scoring Indiana 13-7 to close out game two. Macdonald and Alde had a key block and in the run and Vicki Brown finished off with a kill from a tough angle. Indiana never recovered after that. The Illini jumped to leads of 11-4, 16-6 and 24-12 in game three. McCulley and Alde and seven and four kills, respectively, in that game.
Game four was all Illinois. After Indiana had closed to within 13-10, Illinois out-scored Indiana 15-8. Back-to-back aces from Edinger gave Illinois a seven-point lead at 18-11.
The Illini defense was effective in slowing down the Indiana offense. Ashley Edinger had 21 digs while senior defensive specialist Beth Vrdsky had a season-best 17 digs. Sophomore setter Lizzie Bazzetta, meanwhile, was sensational in distributing the ball. Bazzetta, who came into the week second in the nation in assists per game, totaled a season high 66 assists, which is also two off a career high.
"We felt this could be a season changing match either way," said Illinois Head Coach Don Hardin. "I am proud with how we responded after a slow start."