Texas wins five-set thriller over Illini in Regional Semis
Dec. 10, 2010
Austin, Texas - The match had all the characteristics of an instant classic. Eighth-seeded Illinois battled host ninth-seeded Texas to five sets with a berth in the Elite Eight on the line. In the end, the combination of Texas' All-American outside hitter Juliann Faucette and middle hitter Rachael Adams, who each posted 19 kills, were too much for the resilient Illini as Texas pulled out a 19-25, 26-24, 18-25, 25-14, 15-11 victory. Texas (26-5) advances to meet Purdue, an upset winner over top-seed Florida, in Saturday's Regional Final. Illinois ends its season at 24-9 after advancing to its third straight Sweet 16.
"I thought that was a fun match to be a part of," said Illinois head coach Kevin Hambly. "It was real physical. [It was an] explosive, athletic match. I enjoyed being a part of it. I'm disappointed we didn't do a better job. It wasn't consistent. The match came down to what we thought it would be. If we could get them out of their system, we could score some points. We didn't."
Illinois battled back from deficits in sets one and three to take those sets and quiet a boisterous crowd of 3,731 at Gregory Gym. Freshman Jazmine Orozco had her best effort of her career, hitting .545 with 21 kills. Orozco had six kills and hit 1.000 in the fourth set alone.
"I thought she did a great job for us," said junior outside hitter Colleen Ward of Orozco. "She got around any ball, she would find the kill and swing high, which is what we needed. She played great. She stepped up tonight."
Senior middle blocker Johannah Bangert broke the Big Ten career block assists record in the fifth set in trying to pull Illinois closer. Bangert finished the night with seven kills and five blocks while hitting .583. She finishes her career with 613, one better than the old record held by Heather Dodaro of Wisconsin.
"It is a great personal accomplishment for me, something that will mean more later, I'm sure," Bangert said. "It's really hard right now because this is my last match."
The Illini set the tone for its fight in the first set. Trailing 13-9, Illinois rebounded to out-score the Longhorns 16-6 the rest of the way. Illinois. Ward, the leader in the first two rounds, hit .556 with five kills in pacing the comeback. Ward ended the match with 16 kills. Junior outside hitter Michelle Bartsch, meanwhile, had five of her 17 kills in the first set. Ward had three straight kills in turning a 13-11 deficit into a 14-13 advantage. The Illini slowed down Faucette, who had just two kills while hitting .000 in that set. Orozco had the final kill of the set, a foreshadowing of things to come.
That same resiliency was evident in the second set as well. Texas built a 15-9 lead only to see the Illini chip away. Trailing 18-14, Bartsch and Johnson started the rally with a block. Bartsch hit it through the triple block and Orozco sent it down the line. Texas went back in front 21-17, Bangert scored from the middle and Haen posted back to-back aces to make it 21-20. After exchanging side outs, Ward scored an ace to tie the set. It was tied at 23 and 24 and it looked like Michelle Bartsch had aced her way to an Illini lead. However, the officials called a replay, saying the line judge impeded the opportunity of a Longhorn player to receive. After the pivotal call, Texas scored the final two points to take the set.
Illinois didn't trail in taking the third set. The Illini out-scored the Longhorns, 10-4 to end the set. Orozco hit .800 with four kills while Bangert had three kills in three attacks to pace the Illini. Illinois sided out at a 78 percent efficiency and hit .353 in that set, this despite Adams' five-kill, .500 attack percentage performance.
That was the last time Texas would trail the rest of the night. Texas built a 21-12 lead in the fourth set en route to a 25-14 victory, then built leads of 4-0 and 6-1 before fighting off a late Illinois surge in taking the fifth set 15-11. In that fifth set, the Illini battled back to within 12-10 and 13-11 before Texas scored the final two points of the match. Texas turned the wick up with its serve, scoring five aces in the fourth set and holding the Illini to a .130 attack percentage in the fifth.
"We were trying really hard to be aggressive with the serve, but they were just passing all of them," Bangert said. "It made it really hard in the back because they had three options every time. It also made it hard on defense because they were in system and swinging as hard as they could. I think that was definitely the big thing, and in those last two [sets], they were just on fire."