IU was down by seven points in the midst of the third set of its third-to-last game this season.
Amongst unfamiliar fans in unknown territory another loss for IU volleyball became more realistic and the possibility for a win became more distant. Not even a nine-point rally that narrowed a seven-point deficit to two points was enough for IU to take home a win.
Illinois swept IU in three straight sets, 25-23, 25-16, 25-20 on Saturday night in Champaign, Illinois.
“Overall we could’ve played better as a team and found ways to do our jobs,” senior middle blocker Chante George said. “We are a little disappointed.”
The match opened up on a positive note for the Hoosiers. They had a hitting percentage of .286 while leading 8-4 and forcing the Illini into an early timeout to re-strategize.
At one point in set one, though, IU committed seven errors and Illinois took the lead. IU put in three of its defensive players to combat the aggressive swings committed by Illinois’ offense, but it wasn’t enough to stop the Illini from taking the first set win.
“We gave them too many points in errors,” IU Coach Sherry Dunbar-Kruzan said. “They didn’t earn points, we kept letting them off the hook. We’d make a run and play pretty well but then we’d give them a few points. We didn’t take advantage of the opportunities.”
Although the Hoosiers came back out in set two to take another early lead, they gave eight points away to Illinois in serving and attack errors. That’s when the Illini took a big lead that led to another set win.
In set three, the Hoosiers were falling behind once again. For a slim possibility of a set win they needed to make some changes out on the court. That’s when Dunbar-Kruzan put in junior middle blocker Jazzmine McDonald and sophomore outside hitter Jessica Leish.
“In the third set we had Jess and Jazzy come in,” George said. “We talked about changing our attitude and finding ways to put some momentum on the court. We needed some spark on the court and that’s exactly what they did.”
The spark wasn’t enough to close another large deficit and earn a set win, though. The Hoosiers hitting percentage had dropped to .121 and their errors had risen to 24 in total. The outcome was another 3-0 sweep for the opponents and more disappointment for IU volleyball.
“There’s some games we wish we could’ve gone back and won,” George said. “Each game is a learning experience and now it’s just focusing on games we have left.”
The Hoosiers only have two matches left in their Big Ten season. Dunbar-Kruzan said to win these next two games the Hoosiers need to take advantage of their opportunities and not give away as many points on errors.
“I think when you give a ranked team points like that and you expect to win it just doesn’t happen,” Dunbar-Kruzan said. “I’m disappointed we didn’t take advantage of opportunities. You learn and you’re going to find success through the failures but you need to help yourself out.”