EVANSTON -- Liz McMahon and Jocelynn Birks combined for 58 kills to lead Illinois to a 20-25, 25-22,. 25-22, 20-25, 15-12 Big Ten volleyball victory against Northwestern on Wednesday night.
McMahon, a sophomore outside hitter, belted a career-high 30 kills and hit .425 in 53 swings. Birks, a redshirt freshman outside hitter, set a new career best as well with 28 kills.
With the score tied at 12-12 in the fifth set, McMahon produced two straight kills to put Illinois in command. On the Illini's first serve for match point, Northwestern middle blocker Savannah Paffen committed a hitting error to end it.
McMahon and Birks each contributed four kills in the decisive fifth set.
The five-set match was Illinois' 13th this season, a program high. The Illini (13-16, 7-12) improved to 5-8 in five-setters. Two of those wins have been against the Wildcats (16-14, 5-14).
Birks also contributed 13 digs for her 13th double-double of the season. In addition, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year candidate notched her 11th 20-kill match.
Led by libero Jennifer Beltran's match-high 24 digs, the Illini outdug Northwestern 72-62.
Illini middle blocker Erin Johnson had six block assists to move into third place on the school career list with 444. The senior also moved into a tie for seventh place on the UI single-season chart for block assists with 137.
Illinois senior setter Annie Luhrsen recorded a season-best 64 assists, four shy of her career high.
Illinois will play its final match of the season at 7 p.m. Saturday at Iowa.