Despite strong effort, Illinois falls short at Purdue
Nov. 2, 2011
West Lafayette, Ind. - In both matches this year for Illinois with Purdue, sets came right down to the end. In the first meeting in Champaign, the Illini came out on top in four sets. On Wednesday, in West Lafayette, however, the Illini spotted the Boilermakers a lead in every set, fought back, but came up short in three of the them. The result was a 21-25, 25-22, 26-24, 25-21 victory for No. 11 Purdue over the fifth-ranked Illini. Both teams have identical records at 21-3 overall and 10-3 in the Big Ten and sit tied for third in the conference.
Purdue had a big advantage in blocks at 18-9, paced by nine from Kierra Jones, and out-hit Illinois for the second straight match, this time .163-.098. Ariel Turner, the national player of the week, led Purdue with 21 kills.
"I think we competed hard, but we just didn't execute," Illinois head coach Kevin Hambly said. "We struggled with our second contact, both with our setting position and other positions, and as a result, they blocked us 18 times."
The match contained a lot of long rallies, leading to a combined 165 digs, 85 of which came from Illinois. Sophomore libero Jennifer Beltran had 35 digs, tied for fourth most in a match in Illinois history. Senior Michelle Bartsch had a double-double with 10 kills and 20 digs. Senior Colleen Ward had eight of her team-high 18 kills in the second set and added seven more kills in the third set.
Illinois spotted Purdue an early 11-8 lead in the first set as Turner posted a several big swings for kills. The Illini evened the score and finally took their first lead at 19-18 on a cross-court shot from Bartsch. After a Purdue timeout, Ward delivered an ace on a serve that looked a drop ball forcing yet another Boilermaker timeout. Rachel Feldman also served strong forcing the Boilers out of system. On one of those out-of-system plays, setter Annie Luhrsen delivered a wicked swing on two. Purdue out-hit the Illini .243-.121 in the opening set, but committed six service errors.
The second set followed a similar script with Purdue out to an early lead only to see the Illini come back in front 15-14. This time, however, Illinois fell victim to some hitting errors, five on blocks and six unforced. Ward was tough with eight kills, but Turner countered with four of her own.
Illinois nearly pulled off an impressive comeback in the third set. The Boilers built a 16-8 lead before the Illini went on an 11-3 run to pull even at 19-19. The Illini put Jazmine Orozco in for a right-side block and Bartsch served four straight points in the rally. The Illini run reached 16-6 as Ward scored five of six Illinois points and the Illini served for the set at 24-22. Jones, however, served the final four points of the set to give the set to the home-standing Boilers.
Purdue had five blocks in the fourth set and after building a 15-11 lead, never was head after that. Illinois hit just .021 with eight attack errors overall.
"It's tough on the road," Hambly said. "There are a lot of teams that are going to struggle on the road, especially in this conference. We just have to continue to get better. I thought we fought hard and the players stuck together. It was a drastic difference from the Minnesota match. We don't expect to go undefeated and we're still working for December."
The Illini travel to Indiana Saturday night for a 6 p.m. match.