Hot-hitting Ward helps Illini top Hoosiers
Nov. 5, 2011
Bloomington, Ind. - Colleen Ward had 15 kills and five blocks while hitting .560 as No. 5 Illinois held off Indiana in Bloomington 25-17, 19-25, 25-22, 25-16. The Illini used a 14-6 advantage in blocks and some hot hitting at times to hold off the Hoosiers in a match that featured a lot of long runs by both teams. The Illini got back on track to improve to 22-3 overall and 11-3 in the Big Ten, good for a tie for third place in the conference. Indiana fell to 8-18, 0-14.
"Any win on the road is a big one; we talk about that all the time," Illinois head coach Kevin Hambly said. "When you give a team a window on their home court, they're going to take advantage of it. We showed a crack in our armoir about how hard we were working and it showed up. That's disappointing. We have to keep working. I thought we responded well after that and took care of business in the third and fourth set."
Illinois hit .429 in dominating the second set and .360 in controlling the fourth set all the while siding out an impressive 83 and 81 percent, respectively. In between, the Illini play was up and down and Indiana used the arm of lefty Kelci Marshall to terminate points. Marschall had seven kills in the second set and six more in the third set.
The Illini finally were able to neutralize the Hoosier attack, thanks to their physical play at that net. Junior Erin Johnson had a team-high eight block assists along with six kills. Freshman middle blocker Anna Dorn hit .400 with seven kills and five block assists.
In the end, the Illini leaned on the arm of Ward, who had 10 of her 15 kills in the final two sets and committed just one hitting error on the night.
"I thought Colleen made good decisions attacking," Hambly said. "She kept the ball in play when she had to and then she scored when she had a chance to score."
Illinois got off to a fast start in the first set and never let Indiana back into the set after siding out at an impressive 83 percent. The Illini mixed up the offense with the middle hitting 1.000 in the set on five attacks. Bartsch had four kills and six digs in that set alone. The Illini dominated statistically, out-hitting the Hoosiers, .429-.086, out-dug the Hoosiers, 13-6 and won the blocking battle 3-0 for the set. The Illini turned a 10-8 lead into an 18-11 advantage after an 8-3 run.
Indiana reversed its fortune in the second set, doing so early after jumping to a 6-2 lead. The Illini tried to close on a few occasions, getting as close as two at 18-16, only to see the Hoosiers extend the lead each time. Marschall had seven kills in pacing her team to a hit a .344 clip in the set.
The third set was one of streaks with Illinois using the service arm of Michelle Bartsch (nine kills) to score and build a 12-3 lead. Bartsch had three aces and served seven straight points in an 8-0 Illinois run. But back came the Hoosiers. Three straight blocks brought the Indiana fans to life and the lead was cut to a precarious 16-14. After several side outs, the Illini were finally able to put it away on a pair of kills from Dorn.
Illinois controlled the fourth set much the same way it had the first, taking the lead at 2-1 and never looking back. The leads reached 14-9 and 20-13 as the Illini began to regain control of the serve-pass game. The Illini were able to hold Marschall without a kill, thanks in part to four team blocks.
"I thought in the fourth set we played how we should play," Hambly said.
The Illini are in the stretch run of the season with four of the final six matches at home, starting with a rematch Friday with No. 6 Penn State. Hambly said he hopes the play he saw down the stretch against Indiana will be the norm the rest of the season.
"We have to continue to be committed to working really hard, staying together and being great volleyball players," Hambly said. "At times we lose that, both in practice and in matches. The potential of this group is outstanding and we need to maximize that."