Volleyball surge continues; swimmers shine

IOWA CITY, Iowa – The block party continues for the Illinois volleyball team.

One night after blocking a season-high 19 shots, the No. 8 Illini stopped 16 more while sweeping Iowa 25-23, 25-15, 25-22 Saturday night. The victory was Illinois' seventh in a row, matching its longest winning streak of the season. The Illini (16-3) completed the first half of the Big Ten race in a tie for second place with No. 9 Minnesota at 8-2.

"Our energy level was great and I thought we executed pretty well," UI coach Kevin Hambly said. "I also thought we blocked exceptional.

"No matter how we do it, if you get two wins on the road, we're excited."

Laura DeBruler led the Illinois attack with a match-high 17 kills. Middle blocker Johannah Bangert produced eight block assists one night after tying the school record in that category (13) for the second time this season. Right-side hitter Michelle Bartsch added seven block assists.

Illinois faced a 16-10 deficit in the first set before rallying. The Illini finished the set with seven blocks, while DeBruler produced five kills.

"You have to like being in really competitive situations," Hambly said. "We like being in some tight sets, and I actually think we're calmer when it's tight."

The Illini's defense at the net helped limit Iowa to a .025 hitting percentage. The Hawkeyes (11-11, 3-7) hit minus-.042 in the first set and minus-.059 in Set 2.

DeBruler was one of three Illini with double-figure dig totals, recording 13. Libero Ashley Edinger had 15 and outside hitter Kylie McCulley contributed 10.

In swimming & diving:

Illini rule dual. The Illini (4-1) won 10 of 16 events, including a record-setting performance by diver Lauren Wismer, in defeating Iowa State 173-122 in a home dual meet. A capacity crowd of 763 attended the UI's second annual Splash Bash event at the ARC pool.

"Having over 700 fans here was fantastic," UI coach Sue Novitsky said.

Wismer, who set the school record in the 1-meter dive on Oct. 10, broke the UI mark for 3 meters with a score of 304.8. The freshman also finished second to teammate Britni Fisher in the 1-meter.

"This was a good confidence builder (for Wismer) and I'm proud of her for the hard work she's put in," Novitsky said.

Illini sophomore Kristen Manias swept the 50- and 100-yard freestyles. Illinois captured the top three places in five events.

In women's tennis:

Finnegan advances. Illini junior Leigh Finnegan advanced to the third round of singles at ITA Midwest Regional Championships in Evanston. Finnegan, a Nos. 9-16 seed, outbattled Katarina Milinkovic of DePaul 4-6, 7-6, 6-3.

Illinois freshman Brianna Smutko, who reached the main draw as a qualifier,  was eliminated in the second round by Northwestern's Lauren Lui 7-6, 6-1.

All three Illini doubles teams lost in the third round. The UI duo of Chelcie Abajian and Rachael White – a Nos. 5-8 seed – was ousted 8-3 by the Ohio State tandem of Cami Hubbs and Kelsey Haviland.

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