NORMAL, low. – The Illinois volleyball team swept its competition to a perfect 9-0 set in the weekend, while the Illinois won the Redbird Classic title after a straight set victory (25- 19, 25-21, 25-12) over North Texas on Saturday (September 18) at Redbird Arena.
With the win, the Illini move to 8-3 of the season, marking their best start to the season since they started the 2018 season 14-0.
It was a balanced attack for the Illini, with the second year Raina Terry at the head with 10 dead to finish along with eight excavations, a maximum of four aces and two blocks. Juniors Kennedy Collins i Jessica Nunge each got nine wins in the win, with Nunge with a 0.471 best percentage in the season after making just one mistake on 17 laps. Collins also tracked the UI blocking effort with three things a day.
Red-junior t-shirt Diana Brown recorded 33 assists while Illini hit a .225 attack clip, while adding eight digs.
Major Taylor Kuper led the defensive effort with 16 digs, with Illini holding UNT (7-5) at a team percentage of .108. The native of Lenexa, Kansas, also added three aces in the victory.
It was a close battle to start the match with a death of Cooney that gave Illini an initial 5-2 lead, before UNT scored again at 8-8. Then, the Illini broke a 9-9 tie with a 10-3 run to gain a 19-12 lead after a block by Terry and Collins. The Mean Green responded with three consecutive scores to close within 19-15 and force a UI timeout. Illini’s consecutive points at the break pushed the score to 21-15 as both teams exchanged points until an ace from Kuper sealed the set victory 25-19.
It was all UNT to start the second, as the Mean Green got the first eight points of the stanza. After an ace from the OTT made it 11-2, Illini responded with a 13-4 run, with a Terry cones limit, to bounce back and even score 15-15. In a series of runs, the Mean Greens responded with four points in a row to regain their 19-15 lead, but it was all Illini after as a junior death Kyla Swanson he started a 10-2 run that included scores of six in a row to close out the set, as another Illini ace – this time from Nunge – finished the second set 25-21.
The Illini continued their momentum until the third period, as a 10-3 start turned into a 16-6 lead after Terry’s death. A block of the UNT stopped the concentration of the UI, but it would be as close as the Mean Green would take place, as another race of Illini by 6-2 pushed the marker to 22-9 after a murder of Terry. UNT would take the next three by four points, but a Swanson death combined with a triple UI block sent Illinois 3-0 with a 25-12 victory in the third.
Soon, Illinois travels to Iowa City, Iowa, to open the Big Ten Conference against Iowa on Tuesday (September 22nd) in a Big Ten Network television game at 6 p.m.
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