Live from Huff Hall:Michigan State 3, Illinois 2

Live from Huff Hall:Michigan State 3, Illinois 2

Michigan State capped its rally from a 2-0 deficit to finish off the Illini in the fifth set 15-11.

Illinois fell to 4-8 in five-set matches with the 23-25, 23-25, 25-17, 25-21, 15-11 defeat.

The loss eliminated the Illini (11-16, 5-12) from contention for an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament. A team needs to have at least a .500 record to be considered for an at-large berth.

The Spartans (22-7, 10-7) avenged an Oc.t. 10 five-set loss to the Illini. In that match, Illinois rallied from a 2-0 deficit.

Jocelynn Birks had a match-high 22 kills for Illinois. Illinii libero Jennifer Beltran finished with 20 digs.


Fourth Set

Michigan State 25, Illinois 21

MVP: Rallying Spartans.

In East Lansing earlier this season, the Illini rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win the match. Are the Spartans about to do the same in Huff Hall.

Goat: Squandering Illini

Illinois had the Spartans just where it wanted after two sets. So far, the Illini haven't been able to close the deal.

What I'm thinking:

Here we go again. This is Illinois' 12th five-set match of the season. The Illini are 4-7 in the previous 11.

Third Set

Michigan State 25, Illinois 17

MVP: Michigan State hitters

The Spartans scored 10 of their first 13 points via kills, with Amy Dentlinger accounting for three.

Goat: Error-prone Illini

Six of the Spartans final eight points were the result of Illini miscues: four hitting errors, a service error and a net violation.

What I'm thinking:

It's never easy in the Big Ten. A sweep by the Illini was not to be.

Looks like the computer stats software snafu (don't you love alliteration) has been solved.

This crowd is so ready for an Illini victory. Illinois is only 3-5 in home Big Ten matches.

Second Set

Illinois 25, Michigan State 23

MVP: Jocelynn Birks

The freshman outside hitter had a hand in the Illini's last four points as they rallied from a 22-20 deficit. After a Spartans' serving error cut the margin to one points, Birks belted a kill, combined with Erin Johnson on a block, and produced another kill to put Illinois ahead 24-22. She later finished off the Spartans with her ninth kill of the match.

Goat: Lauren Wicinski

The Big Ten Player of the Year candidate has four of Michigan State's 11 hitting errors and four of MSU's eight service errors.

What I'm thinking:

This is only the second time in the last 12 matches in which Illinois held a 2-0 lead. Illinois went on to win that match against Indiana in four sets.

Right-side hitters have given Illinois trouble much of the season, and this night is no different. Amy Dentlinger had eight kills in 11 swings and is hitting .636.

Even with the student crowd down, the turnout tonight is pretty good. And the Illini are giving them plenty reason to make some noise.

The computer software that the UI is using to compile stats is having problems tonight, so some of the stats totals in this report might be slightly off.

First Set

Illinois 25, Michigan State 23

MVP: Liz McMahon

The Illini right-side hitter had six kills and two blocks, including one solo. At 6-foot-6, McMahon can be impossible to block at times. Michigan State found that out on one play in particular in the first set. On that play, the Spartans put up a block that would have stopped most hitters. Not McMahon.

Goat: Michigan State servers.

The Spartans gave the Illini three points with their errant serves. Two of those were by Lauren Wicinski, the Big Ten leader in aces per set.

If the Illini defeat Michigan State for the second time this season, they won't have to rally from a 2-0 deficit. That's what it took for Illinois to defeat the Spartans on Oc. 13 at East Lansing

Glad I was hear to hear the Westview Elementary School students sing the national anthem. It's become an annual tradition at Illini volleyball matches. Very, very cute, and they can reach the high notes, too!!!

With no school next week, the Spike Squad student group isn't hear in usual numbers tonight. Many of them must have left campus already. Their seating area closest to the court isn't filled. At some matches in this and previous seasons, the Spike Squad had extended all the way up to the top seats.








Welcome to our live report from Huff Hall for tonight's Big Ten volleyball match between Illinois and Michigan State.

The Illini (11-15, 5-11) will look to break out of a slump that has seen them lose six of their last seven matches. To have any chance at being considered for an NCAA tournament at-large berth, Illinois needs to win its remaining four regular season matches.That would give the Illini a 15-15 record, and a .500 record is required to be eligible for the NCAA tournament.

In essence, the Illini are entering a tournament-like stretch: win or be eliminated.

Conversely, Michigan State is streaking. The Spartans have won their last four matches, including impressive defeats of then-No. 4 Nebraska and then-No. 10 Minnesota. Michigan State is led by a strong candidate for Big Ten Player of the Year. Junior outside hitter Lauren Wicinski, a transfer from Northern Illinois, leads the conference in kills, points and aces per set. When these teams met on Oct. 13 at East Lansing, Mich., Wicinski racked up 22 kills and 18 digs.

That wasn't enough, however, to prevent Illinois from storming back from a 2-0 deficit to defeat the Spartans in five sets. That match marked the collegiate debut of setter Alexis Viliunas, who was rewarded for her performance (49 assists, 14 digs) by being named Big Ten Freshman of the Week the following Monday.

Don't be surprised if this one goes five sets, too. The Illini have played a total of 11 five-set matches this season -- with eight of their 16 Big Ten matches going the maximum distance. Their record of 4-7 in five-setters is one major reason Illinois is on the cusp of failing to make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2007.

One Illini player to keep an eye on tonight is freshman Julia Conard. The defensive specialist produced a team- and career-high 17 digs in the team's last match against Ohio State. In six of her last seven matches, Conard has at least seven digs and has been a bright spot during the recent Illini slump.

We'll update this report after every set, so be sure to check back in.


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