Michelle Bartsch had 21 kills and hit .333 for the Illini vs. Michigan.
Oct. 31, 2008
Champaign, Ill. - "Halloween definitely worked its charm tonight," said Illinois head coach Don Hardin. "It was a scary match for both teams and very hard fought toward the end."
In the end, the night was more haunting for #18 Michigan (18-5 overall, 6-5 in the Big Ten), who left Huff Hall on the short end of a thrilling 20-25, 25-18, 21-25, 25-18, 24-22 decision. The victory for #17 Illinois (17-5, 8-3 in the Big Ten) was the seventh in its last eight matches and moved the Illini into a tie for second in the Big Ten. It also gives Illinois six wins over ranked opponents this season, the most since 1998.
Freshman Michelle Bartsch had the match of her young career connecting on a career-best 21 kills on 51 swings, good for a .333 attack percentage. Bartsch also had had nine blocks as the Illini, the 10th best blocking team in the nation, won that battle 16-9. Sophomore Johannah Bangert, the nation's leader in blocks, had a solo block and nine block assists to pad to her lead.
The first four sets were thrilling, but the fifth set had enough drama for the entire night. The Illini fought off four match points and converted on its fifth. Two of those points came on digs from Ashley Edinger and Lizzie Bazzetta that went over the net and landed past the Michigan defense for kills, the final one from Bazzetta came on match point to finally end it. Junior Kylie McCulley who tallied 11 kills and 14 digs on the night, served the final point.
"The whole match was back and fourth so the ending was fitting," Hardin said. "Both teams did a real nice job handling the pressure toward the end."
They say the cream rises to the top and that was certainly true for Illinois sophomore Laura DeBruler. Michigan neutralized DeBruler, who entered the match seventh nationally in kills, for most of the night, but in that fifth set, DeBruler was masterful, connecting on eight kills and hitting .333. She finished the night with a team leading 22 kills to go along with 15 digs.
Illinois libero Ashley Edinger led the Illini in digs with 20, giving her 1,418 for career, just eight shy of the Illini career record.
Although Illinois defeated Michigan in straight sets in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines have been picking up steam since the return of outside hitter Megan Bower and she was a difference maker. Bower led a balanced Wolverine attack with 17 kills and a .401 hitting percentage. Five Michigan players in all reached double figures in kills.
Both teams were neck and neck in the first set, with the Wolverines pulling ahead 20-18. The Maize and Blue went on a 5-2 run at the end to close out the set, 25-20. The Illini block started out the night on a strong note, with Bangert leading the charge as the Orange and Blue out blocked the Wolverines, 6-2. Both teams were sluggish on the offensive side with the Illini hitting just .146 and the Wolverines .239.
Bartsch led the Illini charge in the second set hitting .500 with six kills. The Orange and Blue hit an impressive .324 and went on a 6-1 run to finish out the set, 25-18 as they evened the score 1-1 going into the break.
The two teams traded points back and forth after the break with the Wolverines taking the lead at 19-18. The Maize and Blue, paced by Karlee Bruck who was hitting .727 through three sets, closed out the set, 25-21 on a late 4-1 surge to take a 2-1 advantage.
However, the Illini were not ready to go down without a fight, storming to 25-18 fourth set win to force a fifth and deciding set, holding Michigan to just a .114 hitting percentage.
The Illini host the Ohio State Buckeyes Saturday night at Huff Hall. Match time is set for 7 p.m.