Live from Huff: Texas 3, Illinois 2

Live from Huff: Texas 3, Illinois 2

Final: Texas 3, Illinois 2

25-23, 23-25, 25-13, 24-26 15-11

Check back later for our full story on the match.

Fourth Set: Illinois 26, Texas 24

Heroes: Maddie Mayers and Alexis Viliunas

With the score tied at 24, the Illlini teammates combined for blocks to pull this one out.

Goat: Khat Bell.

The Texas middle blocker took five swings, didn't notch a kill, and committed three errors in the set.

What I'm thinking:

--Gusty response to come back from a terrible third set to win the fourth, particularly after squandering severa late three-point leads.

-- Illini will try to improve to 3-0 in five-set matches.

Third set: Texas 25, Illinois 13

Hero: Texas attack
The Longhorns spread it around while hitting a torrid .412. Four players had between three and four kills.

Goat: Illini
Have to give this to the entire team after a disastrous third set, in which the Illini hit .069 and were outblocked 4-1. Texas led by as many as 12 points three times, the last with the final point. Not a good thing in a race to 25 points.

What I’m thinking:
-- This was the second straight match in which Illinois could muster merely 13 points in a set. It happened against Washington, and Illini fans know how that one turned out.

-- Maddie Mayers is having a productive offensive match, and it would be more so if she could limit her errors. The freshman middle blocker has 10 kills in 20 swings, with four errors.

-- The Illini had not been outblocked in any match this season entering the Illini Classic. Now, it looks like they will be outblocked for a third straight match. Texas leads 9-4 in that category.
 

Second Set: Illinois 25, Texas 23

Hero: Maddie Mayers
The freshman middle blocker played like a vet in the Illini’s must-have second set. Mayers belted five kills in nine swings and added a block assist.


Goat: Victoria Pilar
The Texas outside hitter took plenty of swings (10) in Set 2, but had merely one kill and committed two errors. She also had a service error..

What I’m thinking:
-- Impressive comeback by the Illini, who trailed 19-15 before going on a 7-2 run. Then when Texas retook the lead at 23-22, Illinois scored the next three points, capped by kills by Mayers and Jocelynn Birks.

-- The Illini bumped their hitting percentage up during the second set by more than 100 points over the first.

-- Crowd really got into it during the Illini comeback. That’s who homecourt advantages are for, right?

-- Illini, who gave up 10 service aces to Washington on Friday night, lead the aces battle 4-0.

****
First Set: Texas 25, Illinois 23

Hero: Bailey Webster
The 6-3 senior gave the Longhorns a needed late-set lift and finished with six kills in 12 swings.

Goat: Illini attack

Illinois will need to be more efficient after hitting .171 and committing eight hitting errors. Either that or turn this into a defensive-grinder.

What I’m thinking:

-- The crowd won’t be nearly as big as it was last night, but that’s to be expected, given that Friday’s match against No. 6 Washington was the annual Stuff Huff promotion. It doesn’t help attendance here either that  this match is going up against the Illini football game.

-- The Longhorns’ All-Everything, Haley Eckerman, sure looks taller than her listed 6-3. And my glasses aren’t THAT old.

-- One day after Illini coach Kevin Hambly reached 100 victories for his career, the Texas coach could reach two milestones with a win tonight. Jeritt Elliott is one win shy of 300 at Texas and 350 for his career.
 

****

Welcome to our live report from Huff Hall for tonight's volleyball match between No. 14 Illinois (4-3) and No. 2 Texas (4-2).

Before Friday afternoon, the Illini would have been widely regarded as the underdog in this match. But now there's some doubt, based on the defending national champion Longhorns' stunning loss to Arizona State yesterday in the Illini Classic.

And it wasn't merely that it was a loss. It was a sweep that in several ways was far more decisive than the scores (25-18, 25-23, 25-21) reflect.

So, who knows what tonight's match might bring? After all, the Illini did defeat Arizona State earlier in the Classic.

You have to figure, however, that Texas will be eager and determined to prove that it's far better than it showed against Arizona State. The Illini have something to prove, too, after wilting in the final set of a four-set loss Friday night to No. 6 Washington.

Whatever happens, Arizona State clearly has raised its stock this weekend in Champaign and should entered the coaches' Top 25 on Monday. The Sun Devils (8-1) already were on the cusp of being ranked, having received the 27th-most points in the current poll. After taking the nation's No. 14 team to the limit on Friday, it turned around hours later and took down No. 2.

The Illini have experienced success against perennial power Texas both historically and in recent seasons. Illinois leads the series 7-6 and has won three of the last four meetings, including last year's match at Austin, Texas.

Texas' other loss this season was more understandable. The Longhorns opened the season at Hawaii, one of the toughest venues in the sport, and fell in four sets. But they later beat then-No. 1 Penn State and then-No. 2 Stanford. Clearly, the Longhorns can be as good as any team in the country when they're on their game.

Texas returns three 2012 All-Americans. One of them, junior outside hitter Haley Eckerman, tallied a a season-high 21 kills against ASU.

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

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