Photo by Craig Pessman
CHAMPAIGN, Ill.- Arizona State volleyball dropped its first match of the year against No. 14 Illinois Friday morning, 3-2, in the second game of the Illini Classic. The Sun Devils are now 7-1 overall while Illinois is 4-2.
The loss came in sets scores of 25-23, 23-25, 17-25, 25-18, 15-17. Liz McMahon led Illinois with 23 kills in the win over the Sun Devils. McMahon came up big for the Illini, the last being two-consecutive kills in the final frame to bring the Illini to match point.
Four Sun Devils tallied up double-digit kills in the loss to the Illini. Freshmen duo McKenzie “Kizzy” Willey and BreElle Bailey closed the match with the team-high 11 kills followed by Nora Tuioti-Mariner and Whitney Follette who each had ten kills, respectively.
Setter Bianca Arellano posted her second double-double on the year following her 40 assists and 20 dig performance against the Illini. Senior libero Stephanie Preach led the Sun Devils defensively with 27 digs on the day.
After a 3-0 start to the first set, the Sun Devils and Illini would be in an arms race, tying the score five times before a 4-0 run by the Sun Devils prompted a timeout from the Illinois’ bench. Illinois proceeded to tie it at 18-18 only before the Sun Devils worked their way to a 21-18 lead. Behind kills form Willey and Gardner, the Sun Devils would take set one.
Both teams were unyielding in the second frame and would not allow more than a three-point differential with 11 ties occurring throughout the entire frame. Two service errors from the Sun Devils gave the Illini the edge in the set, tying it up 1-1 heading into the third.
After Illinois stormed to a 14-4 lead over ASU in the third set, a service error would stop the momentum and begin a 6-1 run by the Sun Devils to bring them back within four, 15-11, promoting a timeout from the frustrated Illini bench. The run would come up short for the Sun Devils, falling 25-17 heading into the fourth set.
In the fourth, ASU levied itself to a 7-2 lead and held on with the aid of the defensive efforts, racking up five powerful blocks. The team would end the day with a season-high 30 block assists, with Mercedes Binns with a team-high nine. The Illini would fail to reach 20 points in the fourth set, setting up ASU’s first five-set match of the year.
In the deciding set, Arizona State came out hot- going up 7-4 following two-straight service aces from Preach. ASU would follow up with back-to-back kills from Bailey and Follette, provoking an Illinois timeout, which would only lead to another Bailey slam and extending the Sun Devil lead, 12-10. A controversial call would be the turn of events for the Sun Devils following a kill from McMahon in which the Sun Devils could not respond. Illinois ended the set on a 3-0 run to take the match, handing Arizona State its first loss of the season.
The Sun Devils have a quick turn around before the next game, facing the defending National Champions, No. 2 Texas Longhorns at 5 p.m. CT/3 PT before heading back to Tempe.