CHAMPAIGN, Illinois – The Iowa State volleyball season came to an end Saturday night at the hands of No. 10 Illinois as the Illini swept the Cyclones 3-0 (25-27, 18-25, 18-25). With the loss, ISU finishes the season 19-10 overall. Illinois is now 26-7 and advances to the Ames Regional Semifinal Friday to take on Florida.
Mackenzie Bigbee and Victoria Hurtt paced the Iowa State offense with eight kills each. Caitlin Nolan led ISU’s defensive effort with 19 digs.
Story of the Match
The first set was an even affair the whole way as the greatest advantage either team could put on the board was three points by Illinois at 12-9. The Cyclones did not see the lead until 16-15 when Ciara Capezio hit one off the block. ISU had the lead at 20-19, but Illinois took five of the next seven points to move back ahead 24-22. ISU fought off the first two points, with Capezio blocking an attempted Alexis Viliunas setter dump to tie it back up at 24-24. The Illini got another set point, but Alexis Conaway got a kill to tie it back up at 25-25. A Liz McMahon kill gave the Illini a fourth set point and that time they went to their All-American Jocelynn Birks, who got her eighth kill of the set to give Illinois the first frame 27-25.
The Illini got out to an early lead in the second set at 4-1 and head coach Christy Johnson-Lynch made the decision to take an early timeout. The move worked as the Cyclones scored the next three points, capped by a Conaway ace to tie it 4-4. The Cyclones got the lead briefly, but Illinois pulled back ahead at 8-7. Iowa State then took the next four points, using strong serving from Morgan Kuhrt, a triple block and a blocking error to pull back ahead at 11-8. The lead did not last long as a 4-0 Illini run, aided by three ISU attack errors, saw Illinois move back ahead 14-13. ISU tied it back up at 14-14, but Illinois put the set out of Iowa State’s reach from there, running of seven-straight points to move ahead 21-14. That was all the room Illinois needed as Bigbee fired long to give Illinois the second set 25-18.
Iowa State got on the forefront right away in the third set, as it used a strong serving run from Monique Harris, a pair of kills from Conaway and some tough blocking to get out to an 8-4 advantage. However, like in the second set, Illinois again battled back quickly, getting a 5-0 run to move back ahead 10-9. That was all the gap Illinois needed as the Illini pulled away for good. Liz McMahon finished the match off in the Illini’s favor with a kill to give Illinois the third set 25-18 and the match in three sets.
*Iowa State is now 15-10 all-time in the NCAA Volleyball Championship, 5-3 in the Second Round.
*Alexis Conaway finished with two block assists, tying the Iowa State freshman record for block assists in a season with 113.
*Caitlin Nolan finished with 19 digs, her 27th match of the season with at least 10 digs.
*Nolan finishes the season with 614 digs, the third-most in a season in Iowa State history.
*Victoria Hurtt played in her ninth career NCAA Volleyball Championship match, becoming the 11th ISU student-athlete to make nine NCAA appearances.
*Hurtt finished with 95 kills in her NCAA Championship career, the fourth-most in the program’s NCAA Championship history.
Though Iowa State’s season is over, Iowa State is the host of the 2014 NCAA Volleyball Ames Regional. Hilton Coliseum will host some of the top teams in the nation with a berth in the Final Four in Oklahoma City on the line.