Women's Volleyball
Illini Fall Just Short, 3-2, in Columbus

Ali Stark recorded 13 kills for the Illini, matching her career high.
Ali Stark recorded 13 kills for the Illini, matching her career high.

Nov. 10, 2012

Box Score (HTML) | Box Score (PDF)

Columbus, Ohio - The Illinois volleyball team found itself in a fifth set for the program-record-tying 11th time in 2012, taking a disappointing, 3-2, loss at the hands of the No. 15 Ohio State Buckeyes. OSU won the first and third sets, 25-23, and the Illini won the second and fourth, 25-16, but after reaching match point twice, the Illini dropped the fifth set, 17-15. With the win, Ohio State improves to 20-8 (11-5 Big Ten), while the Illini fall to 11-15 (5-11 Big Ten).

"I thought they competed extremely hard," said Head Coach Kevin Hambly. "I thought they worked really hard. I thought they did everything except for finish. They put us in a position to win. In a couple of those sets, we were just grinding out points and played defense the way that we know how.

"We held them under 50% in sideout percentage in games two and four. They're at home, and it's tough to beat a team at home, when you're on the road, especially in the Big Ten. We had our chances, though. We played calm up until the very, very end, and then we lost it a little bit, and you can't do that if you're going to win this match."

The Orange and Blue topped the Buckeyes in almost every statistical category, leading 71-52 in kills, .229-.187 in hitting percentage, 74-70 in digs and 5-3 in aces, trailing only in blocks,16-11. Liz McMahon led the Illini with 20 kills in the match, followed by 16 for Jocelynn Birks, 13 for Ali Stark and 12 for Anna Dorn. Dorn hit .529 with just two errors on 19 swings, and Stark, who matched her career high in kills, hit .310.

"I thought (Ali) did great," said Hambly. "She hit well, she passed well, she played good defense. She did a good job blocking; she did good job touching balls and saving swings for us. I thought she was great. She did everything we asked her to."

Annie Luhrsen tabbed a season-best 63 assists in the match, tying her career high with 15 digs, for her fifth double-double of the season. Julia Conard nearly doubled her personal best, leading the team with 17 digs, and Jennifer Beltran put up 14 digs.Birks recorded her 11th double-double of the year, adding 11 digs.

"Julia was awesome," Hambly said. "She played great. She passed the ball, she played great defense. She was all over the place. We needed her to play great middle-back. They gave her a lot of opportunities and she dug everything in that position, and she did a great job."

The blocking unit put together 11 blocks, with five block assists by Johnson and five total blocks by McMahon, including a career-high two block solos. With her five BA, Johnson jumped up two spots and into a tie with Sara Sorrell '99 for seventh all-time at Illinois with 455 career total blocks. She also passed former teammate Michelle Bartsch '11 tonight, and sits just one block shy of Betsy Spicer '00 in sixth.

Mari Hole led the Buckeyes with21 kills in the match, followed closely by Kaitlyn Leary with 17. Taylor Sherwin tabbed 30 assists and Amanda Peterson added an additional 13. Davionna DiSalvatore led the Ohio State defense with 14 kills, and Hole and Mandolfoeach scored another 12. Anna Faul stuffed a match-high eight blocks, Emily Danks put up six and Andrea Kacsits forced down five Illini attacks.

Tonight's match marked the 11th time this season that the Illini have needed five sets to crown a winner, tying the 2000 season for the most 5-set matches in program history. The Illini are 4-7 on the year in five-setters, including 3-5 in Big Ten play.

The Illini took the first lead on a kill by McMahon, but a service error tied it at one. A kill by Johnsonmade it 2-1 Illini, but a Danks kill tied it at two. Dorn regained the Illini lead, 3-2, but another service error tied it at three, and an attack error gave the Buckeyes their first lead, 4-3. An OSU service error knotted the score once again, 4-4, but the Buckeyes then went on an 8-1 run, powered by a trio of kills by Hole, to take a daunting, 12-5 lead. Illinois did not back down, climbing back within three, 14-11, but Ohio State went right back up 17-12. A McMahon ace brought Illini within three again, 17-14, but the Buckeyes pushed right back up, 22-17. Birks slammed a kill to bring Jackie Wolfe to the service line, as she served up a 5-0 run to tie the score at 22-22. Birks laid off on an attack by Leary, which dropped just inside the back-left corner to regain the OSU lead, 23-22, and a solo block by Leary made it Buckeye set point, 24-22. McMahon saved the Illini with a kill, 24-23, but Leary found the same spot in the back corner on the next rally to win the first set for the Buckeyes, 25-23. McMahon shined in the first set, hitting .444 with five kills, an ace and a solo block.

The Orange and Blue opened the second set with a 5-0 lead, fueled by three-straight blocks. The Buckeyes battled their way back into the set, getting as close as two, down 7-5, butIllinois pushed right back ahead, 12-6 on a Beltran service run. The Illinicontinued to extend their lead, pulling ahead, 20-12 on back-to-back kills by Stark. A service error allowed a point to OSU, but Birks scored four of thefinal Illini points to even the match with a 25-16 set victory. Birks came alive in the frame, slamming eight kills and an ace, and the Illini blocking unit stuffed four key blocks.

The third set featured 15 ties and eight lead changes, with just one three-point lead, 20-17 Illini, in the entire frame. The Illini took the first multi-point lead on an Ohio State attack error, 6-4, but a Leary block tied the score at 9-9. The frame remained tied on every point, up to 15-15, when the Illini finally put together back-to-back points to go up 17-15 on a Luhrsen kill. A kill by McMahon gave Illinois the largest lead of the set, 20-17, but a 3-0 run by OSU tied the score at 20. McMahon regained the lead, 21-29, but a Kacsits kill tied it at 21. Dorn put Illinois up 22-21 with a kill, but a kill by Leary tied the score again. A Stark kill pushed Illinois up 23-22, but the Buckeyes won the final three-straight points to win the set, 25-23, and take a 2-1 lead in the match. Dorn led the Illini in the set, slamming five kills.

Ohio State took a 4-1 lead to start the fourth set, but a solid Luhrsen service run pulled Illinois in front, 8-5. The Orange and Blue extended their advantage to 11-7, but the Buckeyesfought back to tie the score at 12 with back-to-back blocks. A kill by Stark put the Illini back on top, 13-12, and soon the Illini led 20-14. Ohio State musterd two more points before Johnson sealed the deal with a kill to win the set, 25-16, and send the match to five. Stark and McMahon each had four kills to power the Illini past the Buckeyes in the fourth.

The Buckeyes jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the fifth, but the Illini came right back to tie it on a Dorn-McMahon block. Both teams traded points, Ohio State never trailing, until a pair of kills by Hole put OSU ahead, 7-5. A kill and an ace by Birks tied the score at eight, and a Johnson-Luhrsen block gave the Illini their first lead of the match, 9-8. Hole tied it with a kill, but Johnson struck a kill to put Illinois back on top, 10-9. Leary replied with a kill to tie the score at 10, and a block and an ace by the Buckeyes put OSU up 12-10. Back-to-back kills by McMahon tied the score at 12 forcing an Ohio State timeout. After the break, Leary put OSU up 13-12, but a Stark kill and a McMahon ace made it Illinoismatch point, up 14-13. A kill by Leary made it 14-14, but a monster kill byDorn set up another Illini match point. On the subsequent play, Beltran made a diving dig save, but a miscommunication on the second contact allowed the ball to drop, tying the score at 15. An attack error by Stark set up a Buckeyes match point, and Hole notched her 21st kill of the match to grab the win for the Buckeyes, 17-15.

The Illini return to Huff Hall next weekend for their final homestand of 2012. The Orange and Blue host Michigan State at 7 p.m. on Friday on BTN.com, followed by Michigan at 7 p.m. on Saturday for Senior Day.