CHAMPAIGN — If the Ohio State volleyball team dreads the sight of Liz McMahon by now, who could blame it?
The Illini junior has played some of the best matches of her college career against her home state’s flagship university.
Sunday was no exception, The All-Big Ten right-side hitter — who hails from Liberty Township, Ohio, in the Cincinnati area — belted a team-high 18 kills and hit .390 in 41 swings to propel Illinois to a four-set victory against the No. 17 Buckeyes at Huff Hall. She was a force on defense, too, blocking five shots, including one solo.
“I wish I could play them every weekend,” McMahon said with a laugh. “It’s not hard to get up for this game mentally. It’s my home state. They’re familiar.”
The 6-foot-6 Illini’s top-shelf performances against the Buckeyes are becoming a familiar sight, too. A starter since her freshman season, McMahon now has faced Ohio State six times, including once in the NCAA tournament.
In that span, McMahon has reach double figures in kills five times, and she twice has produced 20 or more kills versus the Buckeyes.
Overall, McMahon has totaled 93 kills in 187 swings while hitting .342 against Ohio State.
With Sunday’s win, Illinois is 4-2 against her home-state school, which was among the Illini’s recruiting rivals for a player ranked third nationally in her senior class.
“It means a lot to her to win that match,” Illini coach Kevin Hambly said. “But for her you’d think it would wear off after the first couple years.”
“It’s partly (the home-state connection) and it’s partly that she’s coming on, too, as a player, and she’s doing a nice job,” Hambly said.
As you might expect, McMahon is highly familiar with the Ohio natives on the Buckeyes’ roster. She’s never been high school or club teammates with any but played against several during her pre-Illini career.
That includes Buckeyes senior outside hitter Kaitlyn Leary, whose tasks Sunday included trying to block McMahon’s shots. At 6-1, Leary was giving up 5 inches in that duel.
“I liked the matchup I had with their blockers,” McMahon said. “And then Lex (teammate Alexis Viliunas) was really good (Sunday) about setting who was hot, and that just gave me more confidence.”
The Buckeyes won’t hear any bragging from McMahon after how she has fared against them, but her siblings should brace for some.
Colin and Clare McMahon each went to Ohio State, and each can expect an email, text or phone call from their little sister, just to make sure they heard about Sunday’s outcome.
“Now I get to go talk some trash to them,” a smiling McMahon said.