#7 Illinois Stumbles in Four Sets against Spartans
Nov. 18, 2011
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Senior Michelle Bartsch tallied 22 kills, but it wasn't enough as No. 7 Illinois fell 3-1 (25-14, 23-25, 25-21, 25-22) to Michigan State at Jenison Fieldhouse on Friday night. The Illini were unable to get going offensively, hitting only .165 compared to .240 from the Big Ten leader in attack percentage. Eight service errors also hampered the Illini, who fell to 24-4 overall and into a tie for third in the Big Ten with Penn State at 13-4. The Spartans knocked off their second ranked opponent of the season and improved to 20-9 overall and 9-8 in the conference.
"It wasn't our night," head coach Kevin Hambly said. "We didn't pass well and couldn't get going offensively at all. Michigan State played really well and was hitting on all cylinders. If you don't show up and compete on the road, then you have no shot against a good team. We fought hard and had chances to win the third and fourth set, but didn't execute when we needed to."
The Illini struggled out of the gate, hitting just .094 in the first frame, while the Spartans came out firing with a .387 attack percentage. In the second set, Illinois pulled it out on the fourth set point to even the match back up. Bartsch led the way with eight kills, including the final one to end it. The Illini also had four blocks up front and served a pair of aces in its only set victory on the evening.
Illinois led 21-20 late in the third set, but dropped the final five points to fall behind in the match. The Spartans then won the first five points of the fourth set and jumped out to a 7-1 lead. MSU controlled the frame and built up a 21-13 advantage until the Illini ran off seven straight to get back within one at 21-20. But the Orange and Blue couldn't come all the way back, as they fell short 25-22.
"We couldn't get into system or into an offensive rhythm all night," Hambly said. "Last weekend, we got into that nice offensive rhythm, but it didn't click tonight."
The Spartans used a balanced attack with four players with double-digit kills, led by Jenilee Rathje (16). Bartsch was the only Illini in double figures with her sixth 20-plus kill match of the season. MSU held the advantage in nearly every category, leading 13-9 in blocks, 83-63 in digs and 58-44 in assists.
Illinois will play its final Big Ten road match on Saturday night, as they head to Ann Arbor, Mich., for a 6 p.m. CT contest against No. 23 Michigan.