PROVO, Utah — After a decade's worth of season-opening wins, the Illinois volleyball team wasn't about to see that streak end Friday night at the BYU Nike Invitational.
The No. 8 Illini outbattled the host Cougars 28-26, 25-22, 25-16 in front of more than 2,700 fans at Smith Fieldhouse — the 11th consecutive year Illinois opened its schedule with a victory.
All-America senior outside hitters Michelle Bartsch and Colleen Ward paced the Illini with 13 and 10 kills, respectively. Sophomore Jazmine Orozco came off the bench to hit .714 with five kills and a block while hitting from both the right and left sides.
Illini middle blockers came up big, too. Junior Erin Johnson had nine kills, including five in the third set, and four blocks. Redshirt freshman Anna Dorn contributed five kills and three blocks while hitting .500.
Making her first start for the Illini, redshirt junior setter Annie Luhrsen totaled 37 assists and five digs. She also helped slow down BYU's outside hitters with three block assists.
"I think our fans are going to enjoy this team, and the big reason is because we get contributions from a lot of players," UI coach Kevin Hambly said. "I thought what Jaz was able to do to help pull us through that first set was huge."
In women's soccer:
Illinois 5, Ball State 0. Just when you think the Illini offense can't possibly keep up its torrid pace, Janet Rayfield's back-of-the-net bunch does it again.
Led by junior forward Niki Read's first career hat trick, No. 19 Illinois (3-0-0) racked up five goals for the third time in as many matches this season in a nonconference victory at Muncie, Ind.
The defense wasn't shabby, either, limiting the Cardinals (1-2-0) to six shots, including one in the first half. Illini goalkeeper Steph Panozzo finished with two saves, one coming on a free kick in the 69th minute. Panozzo made a sprawling save on a shot headed for the corner to keep Ball State off the board.
Sophomore midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo opened the scoring in the 25th minute with her fifth goal of the season on an assist by Read. Read, who entered the match with one goal this season, then fired in unassisted goals in the 28th and 31st minutes to give Illinois a 3-0 halftime lead.
Read notched her third goal in the 66th minute, with an assist by Jackie Guerra. It marked the ninth time in school history that an Illini had scored at least three goals in a match.
"Niki (Read) had a great day," Rayfield said. "One thing we talked about before the game was that we need to make sure we put shots on frame. ... and Niki being able to just put her shot on frame made something happen."
Stephanie Pouse, a freshman defender making her UI debut, capped the scoring with an unassisted goal in the 88th minute.