LIVE! Illini Classic

LIVE! Illini Classic

Illinois finishes off its sweep of No. 20 North Carolina with a 25-23 win in the third set. Since I said neither team would get the sweep tonight — I thought both teams were too good — consider me proven wrong.

That's it from the LIVE! Report. And with the Illini on the road for most of September, it will be the last one for a while.

Make sure you check out Sunday's N-G and IlliniHQ.com for more from the match.

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End of second set, 8:29 p.m.

— Illinois takes it 25-17 for a 2-0 lead. Anna Dorn finished off the second set with a kill off an over pass, which is exactly how the Illini scored their first point of the set.

— Ali Stark is having herself a match. The redshirt junior right side hitter is just going after UNC with some booming kills. But more important than the number of kills (seven) is the fact she doesn't have a single hitting error in 16 total attacks.

— I have to give UNC's Hayley McCorkle her due, though. She played more in the second set than she did in the first, but that's probably because she has a wicked vertical and hits a violent ball.

— I won't say I'm surprised Illinois is leading 2-0 at this point. The Illini played well in their first two matches this weekend and probably had a little motivation in the bag afte rgetting swept last year by UNC. What is surprising is how poorly the Tar Heels are playing. They have 19 attack errors (and are hitting .026 as a team). Throw in seve service errors and three serve-recieve errors, and UNC is giving Illinois plenty of free points.

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End of first set, 8:00 p.m.

— Illinois wins the first set 25-19. It wasn't easy, though.

— The first point of the first set gave everyone at Huff a glimpse of what the rest of this match will probably be like, as Illinois and UNC kept a lengthy volley going before the Tar Heels ultimately scored. But that point, and a few more like it in the first set, proved both teams were going to have to work for it to get the win tonight.

— Illini setters Alexis Viliunas and Allison Palmer kept feeding Jocelynn Birks the ball on the outside in the first set. And for good reason. Birks has hit extremely well in Illinois' opening weekend. Birks slowed down in the first set after a really hot start, but she should probably be getting as many sets as she can handle (and that don't make the Illini too predictable).

— Illinois right side Ali Stark provided the top first set highlight when she drilled a kill off the face of a UNC back row player. Pretty sure it was the Tar Heels' Sheila Doyle that got the shot played off her face.

— As far as the Illini's defense goes, they did a good job of neutralizing UNC right side Chaniel Nelson in the first set. The Tar Heels' All-American had no kills and one error in five total attacks.

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Game time, 7:30 p.m.

We're just about to get started here at Huff for Illinois vs. North Carolina. I'll update again after the end of the first set.

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Pregame, 7:20 p.m.

I'm hesitant to make any predictions this early in the season. For one thing, I haven't seen enough of the Illini (or any of UNC) to make any sort of accurate prediction. For another, my Division I volleyball coverage boils down to one scrimmage and one match since, well, like 2008.

One thing I am fairly certain of, however, is that Illinois vs. UNC won't be a repeat of the 3-0 matches both teams have played so far in the Illini Classic. Yes, the Tar Heels swept Illinois last year in Chapel Hill, but this is a more experienced Illini team that looked pretty good Friday against a Long Beach State team that was receiving votes in the AVCA preseason poll.

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Pregame, 7:15 p.m.

There are 23 UNC fans here at Huff. I just counted them all.

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Pregame, 7:11 p.m.

Still plenty of seats available at Huff. Seats in the upper half are filling in nicely, but the bleachers closest to the action are still kind of empty. Maybe those fans are still outside tailgating. They've still got a little time to make it inside.

The Spike Squad has filled out its section of bleachers on the West side, but the new South bleachers — that were filled to capacity Friday night — are remarkably vacant. The UI band has taken its section, though, for which I am glad. As a former band member myself (albeit just in high school), I'm probably too excited the UI band will be providing some live music.

As far as the other pregame music goes, well, it's been OK. 

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Pregame, 7:00 p.m.

Illinois coach Kevin Hambly played a few more players earlier today against SIU than he did Friday night in the opener against Long Beach State. Sophomore outside hitter Katie Roustio made her 2014 debut in the third set against the Salukis — replacing Morganne Criswell in the rotation — and had three kills.

Julia Conard also made her season debut against SIU and her strong serve helped the Illini finish off its sweep. Also seeing their first action of the fall against the Salukis were Michelle Strizak, Maddie Mayers, McKenna Kelsay and Kathryn Polkoff.

I imagine the rotation against UNC will look pretty similar to what it did against Long Beach State. As a refresher, it went something like this ...

Outside hitters: Jocelynn Birks and Morganne Criswell

Opposite hitters: Liz McMahon and Ali Stark

Middle blockers: Anna Dorn and Katie Stadick

Setters: Alexis Viliunas and Allison Palmer

Libero: Brandi Donnelly

Defensive specialist: Danielle Davis

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Pregame, 6:45 p.m.

Long Beach State and SIU just finished. The 49ers won the fourth set 25-15 to at least leave Champaign with one win. The Salukis are now 0-3 to start the season.

Now we can officially get to Illinois vs. UNC. Two ranked teams — and Illinois head coach Kevin Hambly said he ranked UNC higher than 20th in the AVCA preseason poll — should make for quite the match.

Illinois will need to turn all of its defensive strengths toward UNC right side hitter Chaniel Nelson. The former All-American missed last fall with an injury, but she's come back strong through two matches this season. Nelson led UNC in kills in its wins against SIU and Long Beach and hit .625 earlier today to help the Tar Heels beat the 49ers.

Illinois drew about half the crowd from last night's "Stuff Huff" for its 10 a.m. match against SIU. Sparse crowd so far with the Illini not scheduled to start for another 45 minutes, but fans are starting to trickle in. That includes the UI band.

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Welcome back to the LIVE! Report for Illinois volleyball. Beat writer Scott Richey (that's me) will be keeping you up to date on the final match of the Illini Classic.

But right now, Southern Illinois and Long Beach State are still playing. SIU won the first set 26-24, but Long Beach has put 25-14 and 25-18 set wins back to back. Fourth set is currently underway.

So, there' still a little time before No. 11 Illinois and No. 20 North Carolina play for what amounts to the tournament title. Both teams are 2-0, and both teams swept their two previous matches.

The Illini started Saturday with a win, beating Southern Illinois 25-23, 25-13, 25-12.

Jocelynn Birks led the Illini with 12 kills and hit .455, while Ali Stark (10 kills), Liz McMahon (eight) and Morganne Criswell (seven) all contributed on the outside. Criswell hit a team-best .636 while playing just the first two sets.

Allison Palmer paced Illinois with 20 assists, while fellow setter Alexis Viliunas chipped in 13. Freshman libero Brandi Donnelly led the Illini with nine digs and also had eight assists.

OPENING WEEKEND IN THE BIG TEN

UConn Classic (Storrs, Connecticut)
Indiana def. Central Connecticut State, 3-0

Indiana def. New Hampshire, 3-1
Indiana def. UConn, 3-2
Texas A&M Tournament (College Station, Texas)

Texas A&M def. Iowa, 3-0
Iowa def. UT-San Anthonio, 3-1
Iowa def. Tulane, 3-0
Elon Phoenix Classic (Elon, North Carolina)
Maryland def. Elon, 3-1
Maryland def. Liberty, 3-2
Maryland def. San Jose State, 3-0
Arkansas Invitational (Fayetteville, Arkansas)
Michigan def. Stephen F. Austin, 3-1
Michigan def. Tennessee State, 3-0
Arkansas def. Michigan, 3-2
Alabama-Birmingham/Samford Tournament
Michigan State def. Southeastern Louisiana, 3-0
Michigan State def. Alabama-Birmingham, 3-0
Michigan State def. Jacksonville State, 3-0
Michigan State def. Samford, 3-1
Big Ten/ACC Challenge (Minneapolis)
Minnesota def. Notre Dame, 3-0
Louisville def. Minnesota, 3-1
Wisconsin def. Louisville, 3-0
Wisconsin def. Notre Dame, 3-0
AVCA Showcase (Lincoln, Nebraska)
Florida State def. Nebraska, 3-1
Nebraska vs. Stanford, noon Sunday
NIU Invitational (DeKalb)
Northwestern def. Colorado, 3-2
Northwestern def. Presbyterian, 3-0
Northwestern def. Northern Illinois, 3-0
University of Oregon Invitational (Eugene, Oregon)
Oregon def. Ohio State, 3-0
Illinois State def. Ohio State, 3-2
Ohio State def. Central Arkansas, 3-1
Penn State Classic (University Park, Pennsylvania)
Penn State def. Texas Christian, 3-0
Penn State def. Iona, 3-0
Penn State def. William & Mary, 3-0
Mortar Board Premier (West Lafayette, Indiana)
Purdue def. South Florida, 3-0
Purdue def. San Diego, 3-0
Purdue def. LSU, 3-0
Air Force Invitational (Colorado Springs. Colorado)
Winthrop def. Rutgers, 3-0
Rutgers def. Southern Illinois-Edwardsville 3-2
Rutgers def. Air Force, 3-1

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