Illinois State volleyball rolled with three sweeps to take home the tournament championship at this weekend’s Wildcat Classic.
It took the minimum nine sets for the Redbirds to defeat New Mexico State, William & Mary and host Arizona. With the trio of weekend victories, ISU coach Leah Johnson feels like her team is finally starting to hit its stride.
“We were so consistent in our play this weekend and I feel like we are finally starting to play together as a team,” Johnson said. “The chemistry on the floor really seems to be clicking for us right now.”
In Friday’s opener, the Redbirds cruised to a 25-19 victory in the first set before facing a tougher match in set two. ISU opened up an early 8-2 lead before seeing that vanish into a 17-14 deficit after the Aggies reeled off nine straight points. Trailing 22-20, the Redbirds used a pair of blocks and a Kendal Meier ace to close the set on a 5-0 run.
ISU controlled the third set, as it opened up another 8-2 lead and never let the Aggies back into the set, or match. Jaelyn Keene led the way for the Redbirds with a match-high 12 kills and seven blocks.
Friday’s nightcap with William & Mary saw more of the same dominance from the Redbirds. ISU used a pair of runs in the opening set to maitain a 20-14 lead before rattling off five straight points to take set one.
Picking up where they left off in set two, ISU built an 18-10 lead that included a pair of aces from Keene, which led to the Redbirds finishing with a season-high nine aces. William & Mary would add just two more points as the Redbirds rolled to a 25-12 win.
Set three proved to be the toughest of the night as William & Mary climbed out of a 11-6 hole to pull within one at 23-22. However, the Redbirds ended the match will kills from Juma Armando and Keene.
Building off their success from Friday, the Redbirds came out strong against the hosting program, Arizona. A back-and-forth first set flipped in the Redbirds favor after Wallen delivered back to back kills to get to set point. Then, Ali Line delivered the final blow with a kill of her own to take the set 27-25.
More dominance from the Redbirds came in set two as they broke open a 19-7 run, highlighted by two Wallen aces. Wallen would add six more kills in set three as they completed the sweep of the Wildcats, 25-23.
After Saturday’s quality win, Johnson could not help but be impressed from Wallen’s performance.
“Lexi was great this weekend, she seemed to really be all over the court for us,” Johnson said. “She just played so well and was really dependable for us the whole game.”
The Redbirds will return to action in their Missouri Valley Conference opener when they welcome Missouri State at 7 p.m. Friday at Redbird Arena.