DAYTON, Ohio — Jocelynn Birks had 19 kills and seven digs as No. 7 Illinois won its first match in three tries this season, 25-23, 19-25, 25-22, 25-18 against Ohio on Saturday at the Dayton Flyer Classic. Liz McMahon added 14 kills.
"We're a work in progress," UI coach Kevin Hambly said. "That's where we are going to be for a while. We have a lot to learn. We're going to have to get better every night, which I think we already have. I think we are starting to discover some things about how we need to play to be successful." Earlier Saturday, the Illini lost to No. 11 Pepperdine 25-15, 25-21, 25-20.
Birks, a redshirt freshman, finished the tournament with 44 kills and 14 digs and had two of the Illini's five aces.
"It was really exciting," Birks said of her college debut. "I was a little nervous at first, but once I got in the match and started sweating a little bit, I was fine. I'm so excited to actually be in the jersey now (instead of warmups)."
Said Hambly: "Birks showed that she could be offensive and be special, but she also showed she is a freshman and can make a lot of mistakes."
Middle blocker Anna Dorn had 18 kills and nine blocks in the tournament, including nine kills against Ohio. That match turned when Illinois took the third set, Morganne Criswell clinching it with back-to-back kills.
"We got everyone going a little bit more in that third set," Hambly said. "We need that. We can't just set high, pass off the net and hit high balls all night and expect to win."