CHAMPAIGN — Jocelynn Birks’ double-double helped rally the Illinois volleyball team to a 22-25, 25-17, 25-23, 25-16 Big Ten victory against Michigan on Saturday night at Huff Hall.
The redshirt freshman outside hitter belted a match-high 25 kills — tying her career high — and had 16 digs.
The victory halted a three-match losing streak for the Illini (12-16, 6-12 Big Ten), who bounced back from a five-set loss Friday night to Michigan State that eliminated them from NCAA tournament eligibility.
Michigan (21-11, 9-9), which entered the weekend with a Big Ten-best five-match winning streak, lost its second in a row.
Illini sophomore outside hitter Liz McMahon contributed 16 kills and hit .308 in 39 swings. Illinois outhit the Wolverines .304-.202.
Five Illini were honored on Senior Night, with Erin Johnson, Annie Luhrsen, Jackie Wolfe, Jessica Jendryk and Tayler Onion each appearing in at least three sets.
“I’m just happy for the seniors; they get to end Senior Night with a W,” UI coach Kevin Hambly said. “Last night was so crushing. ... I thought we played really loose, we played free, maybe there’s no pressure on us anymore.
“I thought we executed at a real high level against a very good, pesky Michigan team.”
Luhrsen also finished with a double-double (47 assists, 10 digs). Jendryk, who made her second appearance of the season and fourth of her career, had five kills in seven swings and hit .571.
“It means a lot to me,” Jendryk said. “I’m probably going to get emotional right here, but the team has been very supportive of me the last (few) years, and I wasn’t really expecting to play tonight and then Kevin told me be ready to ball tomorrow, so it’s kind of what I had to do, step up.”
Mickow barely misses All-American
Hunter Mickow placed 46th in the NCAA Championships at Louisville, Ky., for the highest finish by an Illini in the meet in five years.
The senior ran a career-best time for a 10-kilometer race — 30 minutes, 12 seconds. The last Illini to finish higher was Trent Hoerr, who was 16th in 2007. UI graduate student Jannis Toepfer was 64th in 30:27.
“I’m so thrilled for both Hunter and Jannis,” Illini coach Jake Stewart said. “They couldn’t have had a better day with Hunter being six places away from being an All-American and Jannis being in the 60 range.”
Illini lead at Northwestern.
Illinois leads the six-team TYR Invitational entering today’s final events at the Norris Aquatics Center in Evanston. Illinois has 617.5 points, followed by host Northwestern in second (596).
Sophomore Alison Meng won the 100-yard backstroke in 55.34, the fourth-fastest time in program history.