Illinois on Gard for win

Illinois on Gard for win

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Lydia Gard converted 17 of her 27 hitting chances Thursday night, leading the Illinois Volleyball team to a 3-1 victory against Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.

"Lydia was our leading hitter, and she and Betsy Spicer (18 kills and 12 digs) helped us win the important rallies," said UI head coach Don Hardin, who watched his team win 15-13, 10-15, 15-12, 15-6. "Wisconsin-Milwaukee was a little soft in the middle, and we took advantage of that.

"In the final game, Betsy was really blistering the ball."

Hardin said the Illini, who also got 16 kills and 15 digs from Tracey Marshall and 65 assists from Melissa Beitz, weren't intimidated by their opponent's giant-killer reputation.

"It was nice to advance against a very scrappy team," he said. "This is a team that beat Wisconsin and Purdue and couldn't care less what conference we were from."

The Illini (17-10), a Sweet 16 team last season, hope to advance to the same level again this year when they play at 6 p.m. today against Florida (31-2), a 3-0 winner against Liberty and a squad Hardin called a "potential Final Four team.

"Florida's a real solid team," he said. "They feel we're overrated and that the Big Ten is, too, which should give us some motivation. But they're going to be tough to get by."

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