Illini sweep Indiana in Big Ten opener

Illini sweep Indiana in Big Ten opener

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Illinois proved a few things in Wednesday night's Big Ten opener at Indiana.

Namely, given enough time in a long rally, the Illini can find a sliver of opportunity to end it with a point in their favor. Or that their block remains a hard-to-penetrate wall no matter who's in the front row. Or that even out of system, their attack can be potent.

The latter proved useful Wednesday night. An aggressive serve from the Hoosiers put pressure on Illinois early in the match, but it was pressure the Illini handled and used to gain momentum throughout the match for a 25-23, 25-17, 25-15 sweep.

"Kind of like some other matches we played this year we were doing all the right things in the first set," Illinois coach Chris Tamas said. "We just made a few too many errors and we kind of hurt ourself a little bit. I thought we just executed better as the match went on. (Indiana) played some nice volleyball as well, but we were able to keep constant pressure on them and had some great performances from (Beth Prince and Jacqueline Quade)."

Quade led Illinois (10-2, 1-0 Big Ten) with 13 kills, Prince added 12 and Ali Bastianelli made it a trio in double figures with 10 kills of her own.

Solid passing allowed Illini setter Jordyn Poulter to set all of her hitters, and she finished with a match-high 38 assists.

Illinois was equally strong defensively. Prince led the way with seven blocks, Blayke Hranicka had six and Bastianelli five.

"I would say it was some pretty good individual performances blocking-wise," Tamas said. "A lot of the balls (Quade) and (Prince) blocked were solo blocks, and as the match went on we were able to scheme a little bit more because those guys were handling their hitters."

What Illinois was able to accomplish against Indiana in its Big Ten opener were many of the same things the Illini showed throughout the nonconference portion of the schedule. Those successes translating to Big Ten play, though, was important.

"It's about being consistent," Tamas said. "As boring as that sounds, it really is the truth. It was good to see we're keeping a good level right now. We played consistent volleyball.

"A lot of good things to take away from this match, but I still think there's another level, though. I think our players know that. We'll see that more, I think, as the Big Ten goes on."

Illinois will return to action at 7 p.m. Saturday at Northwestern. It's the second of four straight road matches to start Big Ten play for the Illini. The Wildcats (10-3, 0-1) were swept by Purdue on Wednesday.