WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Momentum can be a fickle thing. The No. 21 Illinois volleyball team found that out the hard way Saturday night at Holloway Gym.
After thoroughly dominating No. 13 Purdue in Set 4 of their Big Ten match, the Illini never led in a decisive fifth set marked by their own errors and the hot hitting of Boilermakers senior Ariel Turner.
The back-and-forth struggle ended with Purdue prevailing 25-20, 22-25, 25-20, 10-25, 15-7.
“I thought we played the best we have all year at times, competed at a high level,” Illini coach Kevin Hambly said. “We just didn’t execute when we needed to make some plays. There were five or six plays that we left out on the floor that you need to make.”
The Illini (8-6, 2-2 Big Ten) appeared poised to win at Purdue (13-2, 4-0 Big Ten) for the first time since 2009 after steamrolling through the fourth set. Illinois, which scored the first five points of the set, hit a sizzling .517 while evening the match. The Illini also blocked six shots as a reeling Purdue attack finished the set with a minus-.100 hitting percentage.
Then the momentum completely flipped. Of Purdue’s 15 points in the final set, seven came on UI hitting or serving errors. Turner did the rest, delivering six kills, including three in a row to end the match. The 2011 Big Ten Player of the Year finished with a match-high 25 kills and hit .364 in 55 swings.
“She played great,” Hambly said. “(In Set 5), she made a couple really nice attacks in spots where she hadn’t attacked all night.”
Despite hitting .000 in the final set, Illinois outhit Purdue .370 to .310. Jocelynn Birks (20 kills, 10 digs) and Ali Stark (13, 11) had double-doubles for the Illini.