Senior Shelly O'Bryan had 14 kills on career-high .684 hitting to lead Illinois to victory over Michigan State.
Nov. 29, 2003
Champaign, Ill. -
The 18th-ranked Fighting Illini closed out the regular season on a high note tonight, sweeping Michigan State by the score of 30-18, 31-29, 30-27 in front of 1,456 fans at Huff Hall. With the win, Illinois improves to 24-6 on the season and finishes in a tie for second place in the Big Ten at 15-5 along with Minnesota.
Illinois' 15 conference victories are the most in Head Coach Don Hardin's eight-year UI tenure and the most in 11 years, since the Illini won 19 league matches in 1992. The second place Big Ten finish is also the highest for the program under Hardin and the best finish since Illinois won the conference title in '92. Illinois also improved to 12-1 at Huff Hall with tonight's victory, its best home record in 11 years, since going 16-1 at Huff in '92.
Before the match, Illinois honored three seniors in middle blockers Lisa Argabright and Shelly O'Bryan and outside hitter Melissa Vandrey. In fitting fashion, it was the seniors that carried the Illini to victory.
"These three seniors are very special to me. The loyalty and commitment they have shown to the program has been tremendous," coach Don Hardin said. "It really has been a dream to coach them. They are very special people, and I hope I get a couple more weeks to spend with them."
Argabright had a match-high 18 kills and hit .571 on the evening, with just two errors on 28 swings. She also had a match-high six blocks. Vandrey also finished in double figures with 11 kills and nearly hit .300 for the match, posting an attack percentage of .292. O'Bryan registered 14 kills and posted a career-best hitting percentage of .684, tallying just one error in 19 attempts.
"The ceremony before the match was emotional because it was a great opportunity to step back and reflect on the memories we have shared here at Huff and during our four years as Illini," senior Shelly O'Bryan said. "I am proud of how we finished strong tonight and played like we are suppose to play. To finish on a note like this on senior night was exciting."
Illinois now awaits the announcement of the pairings for the NCAA Tournament. The selection show will be televised Sunday night at 7 p.m. Central Time on ESPNews.