COLUMBUS, Ohio — Goals have not been hard to come by this season for the Illini, but Friday proved to be the exception.
After Jannelle Flaws gave Illinois a 1-0 first-half lead, Illinois could not find the back of the net again in a 1-1 double-overtime tie against Ohio State in the Big Ten opener for both teams.
“We played really well defensively,” UI coach Janet Rayfield said. “We controlled the game in the first half, but they put more pressure on us in the second half. We got punished on a miscommunication on our back line, and that evened it up.
“We will not be satisfied with a draw when we had opportunities to win the game, but a point on the road is better than nothing, and we continued to get better (Friday night).”
The Illini (5-2-2) entered with 28 goals through eight matches, tied for second in the nation and tops in the conference. Illinois also ranked among the national Top 10 in scoring offense (seventh, 3.50 goals per match) and assists (eighth, 21).
Flaws connected for her ninth goal of the season in the seventh minute on an assist by Aliina Weykamp, and Illinois took a 1-0 lead into halftime. It remained that way until Michela Paradiso of the Buckeyes (6-1-2) scored in the 84th minute on a feed from Danica Wu.
In both the first and second overtimes, the Illini held a 2-1 edge in shots, but neither team could score.
Illinois finished with a 12-10 advantage in shots on goal.
Heels sweep Illini. No. 15 North Carolina is one spot ahead of Illinois in the national rankings, but the two teams weren’t nearly that close on the court Friday night.
The unbeaten Tar Heels (10-0) handed the Illini their first 3-0 loss of the season in decisive fashion — 25-18, 25-15, 25-17 — at Chapel Hill, N.C.
“We did not come out prepared to play, and we didn’t fight back, which is even more disappointing,” UI coach Kevin Hambly said. “We can’t quit.
“I don’t mind losing if it’s a good battle; they’re a good team. But I’m not OK with the way we came out.”
Illinois (4-5) lost its third consecutive match, each to a Top 25 team.
The Illini struggled in particular on offense, hitting a season-low .073, including .000 in the first set. Their previous low was .148 in a four-set loss to current No. 2 San Diego.
Illinois outside hitters Jocelynn Birks and Liz McMahon hit .039 and .000, respectively, and were limited to a combined 14 kills in 73 swings.
Jovana Bjelica produced a match-high 14 kills for the Tar Heels, who finished with a 46-26 edge in kills.
Illini libero Jennifer Beltran had 12 digs, but UNC dominated that category, too, 62-44.
Illinois committed seven service errors, with one ace.
Illinois plays its final nonconference match at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Duke (9-2), which swept Indiana on Friday night.