Illini Finish 2012 with a Sweep in Iowa
Nov. 24, 2012
Iowa City, Iowa. - The University of Illinois volleyball team finished out the 2012 season on a high note, defeating the University of Iowa Hawkeyes, 3-0 (26-24, 25-18, 25-21), tonight in Iowa City. The Orange and Blue hit .305 in the match, to end the season on a three-match winning streak, finishing 2012 at 14-16 (8-12 Big Ten). The Hawkeyes close the year 10-23 (2-18 Big Ten), finishing with a rough 14-match slide.
Illini outsides Jocelynn Birks and Liz McMahon each put up 19 kills in the match, combining for a total of 94 kills in the final two matches of the season. Erin Johnson and Ali Stark both hit about .400 with seven kills apiece, and Jessica Jendryk chipped in an additional four kills. Annie Luhrsen put up 48 assists for the Orange and Blue, adding eight digs, and Stark and Jendryk both had two blocks. Jennifer Beltran led the team with 15 digs, followed closely by Stark with 14, and Birks and Julia Conard each added nine.
The Illini opened the first set up 3-0, with the first two kills of the match going to Birks, and soon extended their lead to 7-3. After trailing 9-5, the Hawkeyes put together a 6-1 run to tie the score and take their first lead, 11-10. Stark tied the score with a kill, but Dietz put Iowa back in front, 12-11, then took its largest lead of the set, 17-15, on a Lovell kill. Lovell went on to have a service error followed by an attack error to tie the score, and a ball-handling error followed by an ace by Jackie Wolfe gave the Illini back the lead, 19-17. Illinois stayed on top, moving to a 22-20 advantage off a Birks kill, but a Straumann kill and a Dietz ace knotted the score at 22. Birks put the Illini ahead, 23-22, but Lovell tied it at 23, and a ball-handling error by Luhrsen gave the Hawkeyes the first chance at set point, 24-23. Birks landed her 500th kill of the season on the next play, her ninth of the set, to tie the score at 24, and a Hawkeye error made it set-point Illini. Liz McMahon slammed her seventh kill of the set on the next play to eke out a 26-24 win in the first set. With her 500th kill, Birks became the 10th Illini to register 500 kills in a season, and just the second freshman ever to do so.
Illinois began the second set much like the first, up 7-3, but a 6-0 run served out by Beltran helped the Illini to a huge, 16-7, lead midway through the frame, and the Hawkeyes were unable to recover. Iowa used a pair of aces and a block by Dietz to close to gap, 25-17, but a duo of Jendryk kills and a Beltran ace closed out the set with a 25-18 Illini victory. The Illini hit .342 in the set, led by seven kills and a .455 clip by McMahon.
The Orange and Blue took an 8-4 lead early in the third, and soon stretched it to a daunting 18-10 advantage. The Hawkeyes did not back down, using an 8-1 run served out by Straumann, to pull within one, 19-18, but a Birks kill ended the bid for a tie, putting Illinois ahead, 20-18. Lovell struck a kill on the next play to make it 20-19, but a 3-0 run by Illinois backed by a pair of Johnson kill set the Illini up nicely, 23-19. Lovell notched another kill to make it 23-20, but another Johnson kill made it match point, and a Hawkeye attack error ended the season, as the Illini claimed their first Big Ten sweep of the season with a 25-21 victory in the third.
Birks broke into the 500-kill club tonight, finishing the season with a total of 510. She is the 10th Illini and just the second freshman to record 500 kills in one season, a feat which has been matched just 12 times in Illinois history. Volunteer assistant Laura DeBruler is the only other Illini rookie to reach 500 kills, slamming 577 in 2007. She finishes the season ranked ninth all-time in single-season kills and sixth in total attacks, tallying 1,458.
At the close of her junior year, Beltran ranks second all-time at Illinois and 13th in Big Ten history with 1,694 career digs. She finishes the year with a total of 485 digs, good for sixth place all-time at Illinois; she set the top to single-season marks over the past two seasons.
Seniors Annie Luhrsen and Erin Johnson finish their careers atop to Illinois charts in several categories. In three seasons at Illinois, Luhrsen put together a total of 2,806 assists, which ranks eighth all-time in the Illini record books. She tallied 1,165 assists as a freshman at the University of Connecticut, finishing her college career with 3,971 total assists.
Johnson finishes her four-year career with a .311 hitting percentage, 786 kills, 445 block assists and 471 total blocks, ranking third all-time in career block assists, sixth in total blocks and 11th in hitting percentage.
Serving specialist Jackie Wolfe, who had a key ace in the first set tonight, retires with 228 career digs and 73 service aces. Jessica Jendryk, who started the final three matches of her career, leading the Illini to a 3-0 record, hit .381 with 12 kills and five blocks in 15 sets, and Tayler Onion ends her career with two kills and two digs.