Live from Huff Hall: Illinois 3, Wisconsin 2
Illinois never trailed in Set 5 en route to capturing a hard-earned 25-23, 23-25, 25-22, 22-25, 15-9 Big Ten win at Huff Hall.
Middle blocker Anna Dorn scored four of the Illini's first six points in the final set, all on kills, to put Wisconsin in a 6-3 hole from which it did not recover.
Jocelynn Birks was a force later in the set for Illinois, producing three straight kills as the margin built to 13-8.
Illinois finished off the Badgers as Liz McMahon and Dorn combined on a block.
The Illini hit .417 in Set 5, belting 10 kills in 24 errorless swings.
Birks finished with a match-high 20 kills. McMahon had 19 kills and hit .333. Dorn had 13 kills and hit .478. Fellow middle blocker Erin Johnson accded seven kills in 10 errorless swings.
Libero Jennifer Beltran had a match-high 27 digs, leading Illinois to a 75-72 edge.
Illinois held a 22-20 lead in the fourth set but couldn't hang on against the rallying Badgers. Wisconsin scored the final five points, including two on klls by Jill Mikaelsen, to defeat the Illini 25-22 and send the match to a fifth set.
Mikaelsen had six kills in nine swings in the set. Liz McMahon of Illinois had six kills in 13 attack.
For the match, McMahon has 18 kills, one more than teammate Jocelynn Birks.
Crystal Graff and Alex Mitchell each have 13 kills for Wisconsin.
The Illini won a tightly contested third set 25-22 to take a 2-1 lead in the match.
There were three lead changes and seven ties, the last at 18-18. Ali Stark put Illinois ahead for good with a kill, sparking a 3-0 run that gave the Illini a 21-18 edge.
After Illinois went ahead 24-20, the Badgers twice fought off set point before Anna Dorn ended it with her ninth kill of the match.
Liz McMahon had five kills and Jocelynn Birks added four in the set for the Illini. Birks has 13 kills for the match, one more than McMahon.
Illini libero had six more digs, raising her match total to 15.
Ellen Chapman had six kills in 13 swings in Set 3 for Wisconsin. Crystal Graff leads the Badgers with 11 kills, one more than Chapman.
Illinois couldn't pull off another comeback in Set 2, although it came close.
Trailing 22-17, the Illini scored six of the next eight points -- three times staving off set point -- to pull within 24-23. The comeback bid ended, however, when setter Annie Luhrsen hit the ball into the net to give Wisconsin the winning point.
Illinois never led in the set, which was tied once, at 1-1.
The Illini committed seven hitting errors in Set 2, bringing their match total to 13. Wisconsin is outhitting Illinois .264-.240.
Jocelynn Birks leads Illinois with nine kills, while Liz McMahon has seven in 12 swings. Crystal Graff tops the Badgers in kills with nine and is hitting .421 in 19 swings.
Wisconsin is outblocking Illinois 5-2. The Illini lead in digs, 33-29, behind libero Jennifer Beltran's nine digs.
Led by outside hitter Jocelynn Birks, Illinois scored six of the final seven points to pull out a 25-23 victory in Set 1.
Trailing 22-19, Illinois began its rally with an Erin Johnson kill, which ignited a 5-0 run. Birks had two kills during that surge and then ended the set with another kill. The redshirt freshman finished the set with five kills.
The Illini earlier trailed 16-10 and 18-13 before going on a 6-1 run. Ali Stark capped the surge with her second consecutive kill to tie the score at 19.
Illini right-side hitter Liz McMahon had four kills and hit .429 in seven swings.
Ellen Chapman and Crystal Graff each had four kills for Wisconsin.
Birks finished the set with six digs, and Birks had six, leading Illinois to a 22-17 edge in that category.
Welcome to our live report from Huff Hall for today's Big Ten volleyball match between No. 20 Illinois and Wisconsin.
It's a rare Sunday match for the Illini, who decided to avoid going head-to-head with an Illini home football game on Saturday night. It will be interesting to see what the attendance is like, given the chance in routine for fans. Will UI students show up in their usual numbers, too?
After losing its Big Ten opener on Friday night against Minnesota, the Illini (6-5, 0-1) will be trying to avoid their first 0-2 start in the conference since 2007. To do so, Illinois will need to handle a red-hot Badgers team that has won its last 11 matches. The most recent win for Wisconsin (13-1, 1-0) was at Northwestern on Friday night. The Badgers defeated the previously unbeaten Wildcats in a tight four-set battle. In each set that Wisconsin won, the margin of victory was two points.
For the past seven years, this series has been a matter of feast or famine for each team. Starting in 2005, the Badgers won six straight matches against Illnois. Since 2008, however, the Illini are 8-0 against Wisconsin, with Illinois sweeping five times and never losing more than one set in any match.
The Badgers are off to one of their best starts in program history, but they also haven't played a particularly challenging schedule. In contrast to Illinois, which has faced six Top 25 opponents so far, Wisconsin will be playing against a ranked team for the first time this season today. The Badgers' lone loss was to a Creighton team that received votes in the current AVCA national poll. Northwestern also received votes in the latest rankings.
Since Illinois has experienced trouble with opponents' right-side hitters at times this season, Wisconsin's Julie Mikaelsen could be a factor in today's outcome. On Friday, Minnesota right-side hitter Katherine Harms racked up a match-high 17 kills in 30 swings and hit .400. With young and inexperienced outside hitters blocking on the left side, the Illini have been hurt by the likes of Harms and Iowa State's Mackenzie Bigbee (25 kills on Sept 1 in a five-set Cylones win against Illinois).
We'll update this report after every set, so be sure to check back in.
-- Jeff Huth