CINCINNATI — Redshirt freshman Jocelynn Birks belted a career-high 25 kills Friday to lead the No. 20 Illinois volleyball team to a four-set victory against Cincinnati at the Big Ten/Big East Challenge.
The Illini defeated the defending Big East tournament champions 25-23, 25-17, 25-27, 25-22 to even their record at 3-3. Illinois concludes play in the Challenge at 3:30 p.m. today against No. 24 Louisville.
Birks hit .449 in 49 swings while limiting her hitting errors to three. The outside hitter's previous high for kills as an Illini was 19.
"(Setter) Annie (Luhrsen) and I just had a really good connection," Birks said. "I was trying to swing high and it was working so I kept doing it. Once I got one kill I just wanted to keep getting more."
Led by senior middle blocker Erin Johnson, Illinois outblocked the Bearcats 12-6. Johnson finished with nine blocks, including one solo, to come within one of her career high.
The Illini held a 52-50 advantage in digs. UI libero Jennifer Beltran recorded a season-high 20 digs.
Birks was assisted on the attack by sophomore outside hitter Morganne Criswell, who also set a college career high in kills with 12.
Illinois hit .314, its second-highest attack percentage this season.
"The things I liked about tonight was we were low error for the most part and at times we were a good blocking team," Illini coach Kevin Hambly said. "But, we never got into a flow the whole match. We have to keep getting better."
Jordanne Scott led Cincinnati (1-7) with 18 kills, hitting.350 in 40 swings.