By Ari Levin
Northwestern ran into one of the hottest teams in the country on Wednesday and fell in three sets to the No. 4 Illinois Fighting Illini. After a close start, the Illini took over and won all three sets easily for their 10th straight win, moving into second place in the conference at 25-3 overall (14-3 Big Ten). Northwestern fell to 15-14 overall (5-12 Big Ten).
The match was close for much of the first set, as the teams traded points. No team took a multiple-point lead until it was 14-12 Illinois, but that point came in the middle of seven straight for the Illini on Jacqueline Quade’s service. Illinois quickly closed out the set 25-16, taking 14 of the last 18 points.
In set two, Illinois started quickly again, forcing Northwestern timeouts after going up 7-1 and then 12-2. A 5-1 run for Northwestern later in the set was not enough as the Wildcats fell 25-11.
Illinois came out hot again after the intermission, taking the first four points before opening up a 14-3 lead. Northwestern battled but could not get back into the set, and Illinois took it 25-14 to complete the sweep.
Abryanna Cannon led the Wildcats with six kills and four digs. Setter Britt Bommer, who missed the last five matches due to injury, had 15 assists for Northwestern. Kiara McNulty, the Wildcats’ other setter, did not appear in the match. For Illinois, Megan Cooney and Ali Bastianelli both had 10 kills, and Morgan O’Brien had 12 digs.
Next for Northwestern is a rematch of last weekend’s game against the Penn State Nittany Lions on the road on Saturday night. The next home match for Northwestern is in the season finale on November 23 against Indiana. The Wildcats are one win away from clinching postseason eligibility.