LIVE! from SFC

LIVE! from SFC

Final: Purdue 3, Illinois 0.

The Illini volleyball team's season ended with a thud. No. 19 Purdue swept the No. 18 Illini 28-26, 25-20, 25-19 to advance to the Champaign Regional Final Friday night at State Farm Center.

Purdue (23-11) will face Wisconsin (26-9) at 5:30 p.m. today for a spot in the Final Four.

Illinois (18-15), who had swept the Boilers at Huff Hall on Nov. 16, lost for the second time in three meetings with Purdue this season.

A full game story will be posted later.

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Purdue 2, Illinois 0

Illinois has no margin for error after losing Set 2 25-20 and falling behind 2 sets to none.

The Illini never led and managed only two ties during the set, primarily because of major struggles on offense. Illinois was guilty of nine hitting errors and finished with a .098 attack percentage in Set 2.

It was a defensive struggle on both sides of the net, with Purdue hitting ..184 after hitting .286 in Set 1.

The Illini did fight back from a 16-11 deficit, going on a 5-0 run to tie it. But the Boilermakers responded with three straight points, and the closest Illinois ever got after that was two points at 21-19. From there, Purdue scored four of the next points to end the set and take a commanding 2-0 in the match.

The Boilers won the set with a balanced attack. Three players had three kills and two others had two kills.

Outside hitters Jocelynn Birks and Morganne Criswell carried the UI attack in Set 2, combining for nine kills.

The Illini continue to lose the digs battled. They trailed Purdue 18-13 in Set 2 and have been outdug for the match 36-26.

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Purdue 1, Illinois 0

The Illini were unable to capitalize on four-set point opportunities, including three in a row, and lost Set 1 28-26.

Trailing 26-25, the Boilermakers scored the set's final three points on a kill by Val Nichol and two more by Annie Drews.

Earlier, Illinois led 24-21 but couldn't finish off Purdue. The Boilermakers responded with four straight points, including a kill by KiKi Jones, a hitting error by Illini Jocelynn Birks, and two kills by Nichol.

The Illini also fended off one Purdue set-point opportunity, at 25-24, when Birks delivered a kill.

Purdue hit .286 in the set to Illinois' .206. Birks had five kills and hit .267 in 15 swings.

Catherine Rebarchak had five kills in nine swings for Purdue.

The Illini lost the set despite racking up five service aces. However, they were outdug by Purdue 18-13.

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Final: Wisconsin 3, Florida State 1

We now know the identity of one of the teams in Saturday's Elite Eight at State Farm Center. The No. 13  Badgers polished off No. 16 Florida State with a decisive fourth-set victory.

Wisconsin improved to 26-9 with a 25-15, 23-25, 25-22, 25-15 victory.

The Badgers will face the winner of tonight's second match between Illinois and Purdue at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

Directed by setter and Big Ten Freshman of the Year Lauren Carlini, Wisconsin hit a sizzling .405 in the clinching fourth set to finish the match with a .279 attack percentage.

Ellen Chapman racked up seven kills in 13 swings to lead the Badgers in Set 4. Chapman finished with a match-high 20 kills, one more than teammate Dominique Thompson.

Florida State (26-8) hit .148 while committing 24 hitting errors, including 17 unforced errors.

Nicole Walch led the Seminoles with 16 kills but also was guilty of 10 hitting errors.

Looking ahead, Wisconsin is 0-1 versus Illinois and 1-1 against Wisconsin this season.

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Wisconsin 2, Florida State 1

The Badgers moved one win away from the Elite Eight with a 25-22 victory in Set 3.

Dominique Thompson, who's the Player of the Match so far, belted five more kills for the Badgers. She's up to 14 and is hitting .367 in 30 swings.

With Thompson at the forefront, Wisconsin had its best hitting percentage of the match in Set 3, .267. Meanwhile, Florida State hit .178 after being outblocked 3-0.

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Wisconsin 1, Florida State 1

There will be no sweep in tonight's first match. Florida State tied it up with a 25-23 victory in Set 2.

The Badgers rallied from an 18-15 hole to take a 20-19 lead behind four kills by Dominique Thompson.

But the Seminoles counter-punched behind Nicole Walch, who had three kills to help lift FSU to a 23-22 lead. The Seminoles led the rest of the way to even up the match.

Walch finished with six kills in Set 2, while Thompson belted five.

FSU cut its hitting errors from eight in Set 1 to four.

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Wisconsin 1, Florida State 0

The Badgers grabbed the early advantage, rolling to a 25-15 win in Set 1. Despite five Florida State blocks, Wisconsin ruled, thanks to an 87 percent sideout success rate (14 of 16).

Deme Morales,, Ellen Chapman and Dominique Thompson each had four kills for the Badgers, who hit .231. Meanwhile, the Seminoles had more hitting errors (8) than kills (7), and hit minus-.028.

Although outblocked 5-2, Wisconsin racked up a 20-12 edge in digs.

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Welcome to our live report from State Farm Center for the NCAA volleyball Champaign Regional.

The four-team field has a heavy Big Ten presence, with the Illini joined by fellow conference members Purdue and Wisconsin in today’s Sweet 16 matches. Florida State of the ACC is the other team vying for a spot in Saturday’s Elite Eight and, ultimately, in the Final Four.

The action begins at 4 p.m. with No. 13 Wisconsin (25-9) taking on No. 16 Florida State (26-7) in the first regional semifinal. That will be followed by No. 18 Illinois (18-14) versus No. 19 Purdue (22-11), about a half hour after the conclusion of the first match.

The Illini and Boilermakers split their two meetings this season, with each winning on their home court. In Illinois’ case, of course, that almost always is Huff Hall. But with Huff Hall unable to meet the NCAA’s facility-hosting requirements — primarily in the area of locker rooms — the UI went with State Farm Center when it submitted what proved to be a winning bid for a regional.

No need to fret about the venue change, Illini fans. Your volleyball team is 2-1 all-time at the Farm, including 1-0 this year and 2-0 since 2009.

In fact, Illini volleyball has an astounding record in home postseason matches, going 26-3 at Huff Hall and, before that, Kenney Gym. Illinois enters with a 12-match winning streak in the NCAA tournament home matches, last losing in 2001 to Arizona in the second round. That Arizona team went on to reach the Final Four.

Illini fans also can take heart in the fact that Illinois previously defeated each of the other teams in the Champaign Regional during the regular season. Besides going 1-1 versus Purdue, Illinois is 1-0 against both Wisconsin and Florida State.
Under coach Dave Shondell, Purdue always has hung its hat on being among the best defensive teams in the Big Ten and, really, in the nation. In its best seasons, the same can be said of Illinois, which made major strides in that area during its highly successful stretch run (the Illini are 9-2 in their last 11 matches).

Big Ten-only matches are surely the best source of comparison between these teams, and in that regard, this season Purdue ranked fifth in opponent hitting percentage (.209) and Illinois was seventh (.218).

The Illini will be hoping that outside hitter Jocelynn Birks remains on her recent hitting tear. In five of her last six matches, the redshirt sophomore has at least 15 kills. Birks also has hit at least .235 in five of those matches. She’s made a particular impact in the NCAA tournament, belting 35 kills in the first two rounds while hitting .280 in 93 swings.

Worth noting, too, is the fact that the most accomplished back-row specialist in UI program history will be wrapping up her home career this weekend. You already know that senior libero Jennifer Beltran is the program’s all-time leader in digs. But she also owns four of the top seven single-season digs totals in program history: Nos. 1, 2, 6 (this season) and 7. With 2,212 career digs, Beltran ranks second in Big Ten history behind only Paula Gentil of Minnesota, who racked up 2,791 digs from 2002-05.

Because they are not point scorers, liberos can be unfairly overlooked. But Illinois would not have reached the NCAA title match in 2011 and would not now be in the Sweet 16 without the considerable contributions of Beltran.

We’ll update this report after the Wisconsin-Florida State match, as well as after each set of the Illini-Purdue match, so be sure to check back.
— Jeff Huth

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