Illinois Sweeps Murray State 3-0 in First Round of NCAA Volleyball Tournament
Dec. 5, 2003
Champaign, Ill. -
18th-ranked and 15th-seeded Illinois defeated Murray State tonight in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in straight games by the score of 30-19, 30-27, 30-20, in front of 1,623 fans at Huff Hall. With the victory, Illinois improves to 25-6 on the year and advances to the second round tomorrow where the Illini will face Louisville (25-5) at 7 p.m. Louisville defeated Notre Dame in the first match of the night, also in three games.
The Illini controlled the match from start to finish, only allowing the Racers to hit .105 for the night. The Orange and Blue dominated at the net, recording 12 blocks to Murray State's three. Illinois also registered a sizzling .330 hitting percentage as a team.
Senior middle blocker Lisa Argabright led the Illini with a match-high 15 kills. She did not have an error in 25 swings on the evening, good for an impressive .600 hitting percentage. She also tied her season high in blocks with her fourth eight-block performance of the season. Meanwhile, fellow senior middle Shelly O'Bryan was the other Illini player to reach double figures in kills, finishing with 11. O'Bryan was also error-free on the evening in 20 attempts to hit .550. Together, the duo combined for 26 kills on .578 hitting.
"I thought we did a great job of recognizing that Murray State was having trouble stopping the middle attack," Illinois head coach Don Hardin said. "Shelly and Lisa were eager to get out there and try and establish themselves. They were on-time with the sets it seemed like every time tonight."
Jessica Belter had five blocks to follow Argabright's eight and added seven kills. Illinois libero Lauren Harks set the tone defensively, making a number of sensational rally-saving digs and finished the evening with 12 digs, her 21st match in double figures this season. Setter Erin Virtue nearly recorded a double-double, tallying 44 assists in leading Illinois' efficient offense and chipping in nine digs.
There are a number of connections between the Illinois and Louisville programs, setting the stage for a dramatic second-round match tomorrow. Hardin coached at Louisville for eight years prior to his tenure at Illinois, and assistant coach Anne Kordes grew up in Louisville and played for the Cardinals from 1996-98. If that weren't enough, Louisville is also the hometown of both Argabright and O'Bryan. But according to Hardin and his players, team goals and not individual story lines will keep the Illini focused for tomorrow's match.
"We are going to have to raise our game up because Louisville is going to be different than Murray State. They are going to hit a lot harder and it's going to be harder for us to get points," Argabright said. "We will need to play together as a team and keep pushing towards our goal of advancing in this tournament.