Over Homecoming weekend, the Illinois State volleyball team defeated the Loyola Ramblers in Chicago on Friday in a close four sets. The team then traveled to Peoria on Saturday to play Bradley and won in three sets. This extends the Redbirds’ overall record to 12-4, and 5-0 in the Missouri Valley Conference.
“[Friday] was certainly not our best match by any means, but we played well enough to win. Our team came together when it mattered and we did what we needed to do,” ISU head coach Melissa Myers said.
Loyola had an early lead, 7-6, due to both teams’ high amount of errors. ISU picked it up with four kills from Ashley Rosch and gave the ’Birds the 16-14 lead. Errors from Loyola extended ISU’s lead to 20-15. Brooklyn Hlafka and Emily Schneider each put down a kill while Stacey Niao closed the set with a kill, 25-20.
Hlafka rolled the momentum into the second set by putting away two kills to help the Redbirds to an early lead, 4-1. Loyola’s team fought back and brought the score up to 18-12. ISU answered with three kills from LeighAnn Hranka to bring the score to a close 22-21. However, it was not enough to win the set, and Loyola won 25-22.
In the beginning of the third set, the teams were tied at 4. Rosch, Schneider and Hranka collected multiple kills to put the score all the way to 20-15. Kaitlyn Early added a service ace to bring the score to 21-15. This was the only ace of the match. The Ramblers had two errors before Rosch put down a kill to bring the score to set-point. Hranka got the final point for the ’Birds with a kill off of Emily Orrick’s set, beating Loyola 25-17.
The real battle began in the fourth set with both teams striving for the win. The teams were tied at 18 when Rosch and Hranka put away kills to earn a two-point lead. Loyola answered with kills of their own, tying up the score again at 20-20. Three errors from the Ramblers and a kill from Schneider gave the Redbirds match-point, 24-22. Hlafka and Hranka closed a block against Loyla to end the match for a Redbird victory.
“Loyola played extremely well especially considering the injuries they had to overcome and they really made it challenging for us,” Myers said.
On Saturday night the Redbirds faced rival Bradley and came up with another win in three-straight sets (25-18, 25-19, 25-16).
ISU carried out consistent play against the Braves, with six players having at least four kills. Early had 33 assists on the night while also putting down four kills.
In the beginning of the first match ISU took the lead over Bradley, 4-1. After a service error from the Redbirds, the Braves used it as an opportunity to fight back and even the score 7-7. However, that was not enough to put the ’Birds down, as they went on a long run to bring the score to 17-4. During the run, four players had at least two kills, giving the Redbirds set-point, 24-11. Kills from Alise Tupuritis helped bring the Braves within six, 24-18. Hranka’s kill made sure Bradley would not make a comeback, ending the set with a Redbird win, 25-18.
In the second set Bradley gave up errors and Rosch had a kill, giving ISU the lead, 3-0. But that did not stop the Braves as they took the lead from the ’Birds, 15-13, with the help from Kristi Chynoweth’s four kills. After Bradley’s lead, coach Myers called a timeout. Rosch came back from the timeout with two kills to help ISU obtain the lead at 18-17. Emily Orrick led the defense with eight digs in the second set and allowed the team to go on a 7-2 run to take the set, 25-19.
The ’Birds came out aggressive in the third set, as Hranka put away three kills and Bradley forced errors to give ISU an 11-6 lead. ISU extended its lead all the way to match point, 24-16, and Hlafka recorded a solo block to end the match and claim another Redbird victory.
“We have a lot we need to work on moving forward but I’m confident we can address those issues,” Myers said.
ISU will host Wichita State at 7 p.m on Friday.