Ward, Illini bounce back

Ward, Illini bounce back

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Seventh-ranked Illinois rebounded from Friday's loss to Michigan State by beating No. 23 Michigan 22-25, 25-14, 27-25, 25-21 on Saturday.

The Illini (25-4, 14-4 Big Ten) will enter the regular season's final week tied for second with Penn State and Purdue. All three teams trail Nebraska (16-2), which has clinched a share of the crown with two matches remaining.

"We continue to get better as a volleyball team, so I am excited to see where it can go," Illini coach Kevin Hambly said. "We have a lot of potential, and I feel really good about this team. If we keep our head straight, we can maybe make a nice run."

Colleen Ward led an efficient Illini attack with 21 kills, one short of her career high. Michelle Bartsch had 15 kills, Liz McMahon added 13 and Erin Johnson chipped in eight.

"Colleen carried the load and was unstoppable tonight," Hambly said. "Annie (Luhrsen) distributed the ball really well and it was fun to see. She got comfortable and started to look like the Annie of last weekend after struggling a bit (Friday) night. We started playing the way we needed to play to get back on track."

Jennifer Beltran had 15 digs and Rachel Feldman 13 for the Illini.

"Our defense really buckled down and came up big down the stretch," Hambly said. "Rachel made some big plays and Beltran made it look easy. Our middle back defense also was a lot better tonight than it has been in the past."

Illinois concludes the regular season with home matches against Northwestern on Wednesday and Iowa on Saturday.

In women's swimming & diving:

Illini remain in second. Illinois is in second place after the second day of the Northwestern Invitational, trailing the host Wildcats.

The 800 free relay finished second, as Kelly Kunkel, Kristen Manias, Courtney Pope and Erin Lamb posted a time of 7:30.74.

Pope joined Alison Meng, Rachel Japp Joyce and Brittany McGowan on the fifth-place 200 medley relay with a season-best 1:44.69.

"Courtney Pope had a great day. She was a warrior today," Illini coach Sue Novitsky said. "Alison Meng also stepped up and did a lot for us. It's good to see a lot of people contributing to second swims and taking advantage of them to get faster."

Meng was third in the 100 back in 56.78. Pope was third in the 200 free.


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