Nearly one month after opening their season at home in Wilkinson Hall, the Hoosiers returned home and opened Big Ten play. Indiana hosted Illinois in its first conference game of the 2023 season. The Hoosiers won in four sets, marking their third consecutive Big Ten opener win.
Indiana took set one 25-13, finding success early with its defense. In the first set alone, it had four blocks and 17 digs. Sophomore outside hitter Candela Alonso-Corcelles paced the Hoosier offense with four kills on seven swings.
Junior outside hitter Mady Saris led the all-around tough serving from Indiana with two service aces, holding the Illini to a side out percentage of only 44% compared to the Hoosiers’ 73%. Junior setter Camryn Haworth set up set point with her second contact setter kill, before an Illinois attacking error sealed the first set win for the Hoosiers.
The Illini quickly fed senior Raina Terry in the second set, as Terry had four straight kills early. The Hoosiers struggled early in the set with serve receive, but freshman libero Ramsey Gary came alive, extending rallies with multiple diving saves and digs.
“Ramsey is the special breed of athlete, that as a coach you can give some advice to,” head coach Steve Aird said after the game. “It’s like the animal in the cage, you just gotta open it and it's game on.”
Gary had six digs in the second set alone. The Hoosiers were able to close the gap late in set two after being down 22-19 when Alonso-Corcelles ended one of the longest rallies of the match, unloading on a ball. Then, a Haworth service ace cut the lead down 22-21.
After a successful Indiana challenge on a missed four contact call, an Alonso-Corcelles ace and an Illini attacking error the Hoosiers were able to even up the set at 24 a piece, before dropping the final two points and the set 26-24.
Both teams seemed to settle into their rhythm during the third set, extending rallies and creating opportunities. Gary had two pancake digs to extend the rally and ultimately lead to a Saris block touch to end the point and put the Hoosiers up by four in the middle of the third set.
After being up 13-12 in the middle of the set, the Hoosiers went on a seven-point run to prompt an Illinois timeout up 20-12. The Hoosiers were able to capitalize and hit .250 as a team with 13 kills in the set. Graduate middle blocker Kaley Rammelsberg finished the set with a slide attack and an assist from Haworth, winning the set 25-17.
Early in the fourth set, senior middle block Savannah Kjolhede had three straight blocks prompting a quick Illini timeout. The Hoosiers were firing on all cylinders through set four using their hard swings and tipped touches to find the floor on the Illini side.
Another Kjolhede block set up match point. After the Illini were able to fend off two match points, it was an Illinois attacking error the sealed the Big Ten opener victory for the Hoosiers.
“It was a great crowd and environment tonight to play in again,” Haworth said postgame.
The Hoosiers brought the heat all night hitting .312 as a team, paced by Saris and Alonso-Corcelles with 11 kills apiece. Indiana finished the match with 18 blocks compared to five from the Illini.
Kjolhede led the team with 12 blocks in the four-set victory. After the hard-fought victory over the Fighting Illini, the Hoosiers look ahead to their next opponent, traveling to Madison, Wisconsin to take on the No. 1 Badgers at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 24.