Big crowd enjoys another Illini win
Nov. 5, 2004
Champaign, Ill. - Illinois put forth its second straight impressive performance at Huff Hall Saturday night.
Rachel VanMeter had 18 kills and the Illini limited visiting Wisconsin to a .167 hitting percentage as the Illini swept the Badgers 30-27, 30-20, 32-30 in front of vocal crowd of 2139. No. 25 Illinois improves to 16-6 overall, 8-5 in the Big Ten. Wisconsin falls to 16-6, 10-4 in the league.
In their previous match at the Huff, the Illini handed #7 Ohio State its first defeat of the year in three straight games. The victory was also win no. 350 for Don Hardin in his nearly 17 years as a head college coach (eight at Louisville and nine at Illinois).
"Getting over 2,000 fans while going head-to-head with men's basketball is a real compliment to our program," said Head Coach Don Hardin.
Wisconsin entered the match one of the hottest teams in the Big Ten, having won eight straight, including a thrilling five-match victory over #2 Minnesota. Illinois came out firing and never looked back.
"We are growing into a reputation as streak enders," Hardin added. "Wisconsin had been playing some good volleyball of late, and I was proud with how our team responded to the challenge. Wisconsin is ahead of us in the conference and in the regional rankings, so this was a big win for us."
The Illinois block continues to be impressive. The Illini had 11 blocks on the night, including three straight in game two. Jen Hynds led the way with eight blocks assists for Illinois followed by four from Belter and one solo block and three block assists from Rachel VanMeter. Hynds was just coming back from injury the last time these teams met, a 3-1 Badger win in Madison.
"Having Hynds in there was gigantic," Hardin said. "Early in the match she was getting her hands on everything. She had a lot of blocks early, some that went down and some that didn't. After that Wisconsin made some uncharacteristic hitting errors."
VanMeter was an offensive force with a team-leading 18 kills. Hynds had a terrific hitting night as well with nine kills and a .467 hitting percentage. Rasa Virsilaite also added nine kills for the Illini.
"Our outside hitters were phenomenal against one of the top defensive teams in the Big Ten," Hardin added. "We went to them a lot. But our blocking was really the story tonight. To out-block the top blocking team in the conference says a lot about our team."
The Illinois defense was solid led by senior libero Lauren Harks, who had 17 digs.
Illinois exploded for six straight points off the serve of Rasa Virsilaite to take an 11-5 lead in the opening game. The Illini never trailed. Wisconsin made a late rally to close to within 28-27, but Illinois scored the final two points of the game.
Illinois out-hit Wisconsin .273-.182 in game two. VanMeter had five kills in the game as Illinois cruised to the victory. The Illini jumped to leads of 18-9 and 24-11.
The Illini had to battle back in game three. The Badgers jumped to a 4-1 lead and never trailed until the Illini took a 15-14 advantage. Neither team led by more than three points, but the Illini trailed just once in the final half of game three. The Badgers fought off two match points to tie it a 29-29, but Megan Macdonald's kill off a nice set from Stephanie Obermeier helped Illinois win three of the final four points.
The Illini continue their home stand on Saturday night vs. Northwestern. The match will be aired on espn2 at 3 p.m. on Sunday.