With a highly anticipated match-up between Bradley volleyball and Illinois for the first time since 1988, the Fighting Illini left the Renaissance Coliseum victorious.
After coming off a hot start of 7-2 for the Braves, the Fighting Illini (5-3) found a way to hold them off, winning the match 3-1.
With an attendance of over 1,000 people, the Braves utilized the fans’ energy in the first set, winning 25-16. As a team, the Braves hit for .591 in the first frame.
The Fighting Illini lived up to their name and fought back during the second set, just sneaking past the Braves to take it 25-23. Tied at 23 all, the Illini stole the show with two consecutive kills to even the overall score. The set was tight throughout, with eight ties and four lead changes.
Both sides of the court battled in the third set, but Illinois took a 2-1 lead with a 25-22 win. With the score even, the Illini wasted no time going on an early 13-4 run to start the third frame.
In the final set, the Illini got out to an early 6-1 lead but the Braves came back, taking multiple leads throughout the frame. However, their efforts ultimately fell short as the Illini took the match with a set win of 25-21.
One of the headline stories was senior Doga Topcicek, who battled through an injury to lead the Braves with 16 kills throughout the match. With Topcicek returning from injury, her presence should elevate the Braves’ offense going into further matches this season.
On the defensive side, Alabama transfer Dru Kuck led the Braves with 13 digs despite being plagued by injury. The Illini had 11 blocks while Bradley could only muster five.
Next, the Braves head to Greeley, Colorado to face Wichita State, Northern Colorado and Omaha in the Northern Colorado Classic. This will be another opportunity for head coach Alicia Williams to iron out some of the wrinkles before conference play.