Illini Volleyball Falls to Purdue

CHAMPAIGN, IL - Illinois, the 13th ranked team in the nation, opened Big Ten play Friday night at Huff Hall against a much improved Purdue Boilermaker team without the services of setter Erin Virtue, out for the season with a torn ACL in her knee, and with starting middle blocker Jen Hynds seeing limited action. Purdue was able to take advantage with a 30-25, 30-25, 21-30, 30-28 victory in front of 1802 fans at Huff Hall.

Led by 18 kills from Leah Wischmeier and nine kills from setter Renata Dargan, Purdue (9-3, 2-0) defeats its second ranked opponent of the season, having already downed #12 Georgia Tech.

Down two games to none, Illinois rallied for an impressive 30-21 victory in game three. Meghan Macdonald and Rachel VanMeter had four kills apiece in the game, but the key was the Illinois defense. The Boilermakers were able to hit .486 and .421, respectively, in taking the opening two games. In game three, however, Purdue managed to hit just .079.

"In games one and two our serving was sporadic," said Illinois Head Coach Don Hardin. "We didn't lose the match on offense. Our blocks just weren't there."

VanMeter and Macdonald led Illinois with 17 and 14 kills, respectively, while outside hitter Rasa Virsilaite continued her impressive play with 13 kills.

Stephanie Obermeier, making just her second start of the season and first in front of the Huff Hall crowd, had a solid outing with 51 assists and 12 digs.

"I was nervous to begin with," Obermeier said. "Our team was there for me the entire night and that made a huge difference."

"I'm especially proud of Stephanie's effort tonight," Hardin said. "There's a tremendous amount of pressure on her. It's going to take time to develop Stephanie's timing."

Illinois carried its momentum into game four, taking a 14-10 lead, but with Illinois in front 16-13, Purdue's Renata Dargan served seven straight points to take a 20-16 lead. The Illini bounced back thanks to three straight points off a Kathleen Bazzetta serve to tie the match at 21-21. Purdue went back in front 27-24, but two kills from Rachel VanMeter and one from reserve Vicki Brown, brought Illinois back to within 29-28 before the Boilers won the final point.

"Our team just needs to be patient and persevere because we may have a few setbacks," said libero Lauren Harks. "Every day is a learning experience. We need to forget about tonight's match and move on."

Illinois continues Big Ten play Saturday night against Indiana. First serve at Huff Hall is 7 p.m.
This story courtesy the University of Illinois

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