Kylie McCulley had 16 kills and 10 digs vs. Indiana
Oct. 30, 2009
Bloomington, Ind. - After cruising to wins in the first two sets, the No. 6 Illini staved off an impressive comeback by host Indiana to post a 25-18, 25-17, 13-25, 26-28, 15-11 victory in Bloomington. The win was Illinois' eighth straight in the Big Ten, the longest streak for the Illini in conference since winning 18 straight in 1992. The Illini improve to 17-3 overall, 9-2 in the conference and coupled with a Minnesota loss at Penn State, gives the Illini sole possession of second-place in the Big Ten. Illinois also improves to 5-1 on the road in the conference.
"I thought we were playing as well as we have all season in those first two sets," said Illinois head coach Kevin Hambly. "We were smooth. We were siding out at a high level. After that, Indiana brought a different level of energy and fight at us and we didn't respond real well. We got real tentative with our passing and defense. Winning a match after doing that, though, is a big deal."
Laura DeBruler had a team-leading 20 kills, including nine in the second set and four in the fifth and deciding set, to go along with 10 digs, to pace Illinois. Kylie McCulley added 16 kills and 10 digs while hitting .364 and freshman Erin Johnson was one off a career-high with nine kills, including several critical ones down the stretch while hitting a team-best .538. Fellow middle Johannah Bangert had five kills and three blocks while hitting .400. Senior libero Ashley Edinger led the way defensively with 16 digs.
"Our middles had some big swings all throughout the night," Hambly added. "It is huge for us to have Erin Johnson have the ability to score in big moments. Hillary has no fear in going to her and we believe she can score."
Indiana (14-11, 3-8 Big Ten) played competitively early in the first and second sets, but once Illinois took control, it was lights out thanks to impressive side-out percentages. Illinois sided-out at 73 percent in the first set, 83 percent in the second set and 81 percent in set five. In the middle two sets, however, passing broke down and the Illini only were able to side out at 43 and 59 percent, respectively, as the Hoosiers won both of those sets. Illinois also hit a combined .500 in winning the first two sets -- .462 in set one and .533 in set two as well as .571 in taking set five. The Illini, however, hit .042 and .195 in dropping sets three and four.
Indiana led set one 9-8, but behind the serving of Hillary Haen (50 assists, 15 digs), Illinois scored seven straight points and nine of 10 to take a commanding 17-10 lead. Sophomore right side hitter Michelle Bartsch (12 kills) was particularly strong in the opening set converting on her first four attacks and hitting .714 with five kills.
Set two was much of the same. Illinois trailed 10-8 before going on a 7-1 run and scoring 17 of the final 24 points of the set. DeBruler had seven kills while Bartsch hit .444 with four kills.
The third set was all Indiana. The Hoosiers hit .464 with 15 kills while serving three aces and siding out at an astounding 84 percent. The Illini, meanwhile, were out of system most of the set and managed just six kills as a team.
Indiana kept the momentum going to start the fourth. Behind a balanced attack from All-Big Ten candidate Ashley Benson (13 kills) and big swings from outside hitter Jordan Haverly (19 kills), the Hoosiers jumped to a 13-9 lead. This time Illinois responded, tying the score at 14-14 as Haen was able to get the ball to Bartsch on the right side for terminations. The set was back-and-forth from there. Johnson gave Illinois its first lead since early in the match with a conversion from the middle to make it 20-19 Illini. Teams traded side outs with Johnson and McCulley (twice) giving Illinois one-point leads. After Indiana took the lead at 25-24, Johnson converted on a back slide, but after a pair of Illinois service errors, Haverly put away the set deciding point sending it into a fifth set.
Illinois never trailed in the fifth set, jumping to leads of 4-1 and 7-2. Johnson had two big kills in the set. Indiana responded, however, thanks to the swing of Benson, who had three kills in the fifth set, and Indiana closed to within 12-9. DeBruler had two big swings for kills in the final two points to give Illinois the win.
"We executed well enough to side out at a high level and get our middles involved," Hambly said of the fifth set.
Illinois tries for its ninth straight win Saturday at Purdue (11-11, 3-8).