Illini volleyball advances in NCAA tournament

Illini volleyball advances in NCAA tournament

SEATTLE — The Illinois volleyball team didn’t make the first NCAA tournament win an easy one for Chris Tamas.

The first-year Illini coach experienced a gamut of emotions on Friday night but felt the one he was hoping for by the time his team walked off the Alaska Airlines Arena court.


Illinois jumped out to an early lead, stumbled badly and then held off Hawaii to claim a 25-18, 25-17, 13-25, 24-26, 15-10 win against the Rainbow Wahine for a first-round win.

“He’s an amazing coach and an amazing person all-around,” Illinois junior Ali Bastianelli said. “He works so hard as a coach that it makes us want to work extra hard for him.”

Bastianelli delivered the final kill in the fifth set — and also came through with a match-high 10 blocks — to help the Illini avoid a late collapse and their first loss in the first round of the NCAA tournament since 2004. 

Illinois (22-10) is back into the second round for the eighth time in the last decade, and will face No. 8 Washington (24-7) at 9 p.m. today for a chance to advance to next weekend’s Sweet 16.

“We knew it was going to be a battle,” Tamas said. “I expected more of a battle at the get-go, but we controlled the pace of the match really well in the first two sets.”

Jacqueline Quade led the Illini with 15 kills, while teammates Megan Cooney and Beth Prince each finished with 10 kills. Jordyn Poulter directed the Illini offense to the tune of 44 assists.

The early success against Hawaii eventually wore off, but Tamas said his team’s steady play — reinforced by playing in the Big Ten all season long — showed at the end when it mattered most.”

“We know we’ve been there before and we’ve battled in these situations,” Tamas said. “I’m just really proud of them that they were able to pull it off.”