EVANSTON — Now, they wait.
The Illinois volleyball team didn’t help its NCAA tournament chances with a four-set loss on Saturday night at Northwestern, with the host Wildcats winning 25-18, 20-25, 25-18, 25-20.
The 24th-ranked Illini (16-13, 11-9 Big Ten) will find out if they’re part of the 64-team NCAA tournament field when the selection show takes place at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, with ESPNU televising the pairings. Illinois reached the Final Four last season, but sits squarely on the bubble going into Sunday night.
“Maybe a little bit of pressure in the moment trying to seal our tournament spot,” Illinois coach Chris Tamas said. “I think our resume is still good enough for that, but we’ll have to wait and see.”
Illinois sure would feel better about its chances for a third straight NCAA tournament appearance with a win against Northwestern. But the Wildcats (14-18, 5-15) played the role of potential spoiler, with Nia Robinson producing a match-high 22 kills.
Jacqueline Quade (18 kills) and Ashlyn Fleming (10 kills) led the Illini offense, while Diana Brown handed out 43 assists. In the end, though, it wasn’t enough to provide a season sweep of Northwestern.
“We did the best we could all year,” Tamas said. “I know it wasn’t the same as last year, but we didn’t expect it to be. We had to fight and claw every single step of the way, but I’m really proud of how this group battled. It’s not over until someone tells me we’re not playing.”
In women’s basketball
Balance carries Illini. Five players scored at least 10 points, helping Illinois ease by nonconference foe Presbyterian 71-52 on Saturday night in front of 1,058 fans at State Farm Center in Champaign.
Kennedi Myles supplied a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds for Illinois (6-1) in its third straight win. Ali Andrews (12 points, eight rebounds), Petra Holesinska (12 points on four three-pointers), Courtney Joens (10 points) and Jada Peebles (10 points) all played a part as well. The Illini will try to extend their win streak to four games when they get back in action at 5 p.m. on Thursday at North Carolina (6-0) in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
“It was such a team feeling,” Illinois coach Nancy Fahey said. “We shared a ton of minutes. People went in and out. Nobody was upset. They just cared about winning. That’s really a positive because you can feel the connectivity that the kids have with each other, and they can be happy with each other.”
In men’s tennis
Kovacevic moves on. Illinois senior Aleks Kovaceivc helped Team USA advance to the final of the MasterU BNP Paribas Collegiate Tournament on Saturday in Grenoble, France.
Kovacevic defeated Ireland’s Simon Carr 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 as the U.S. beat Ireland 4-1 to reach Sunday’s tournament final against Great Britain.