Iowa Defeats No. 24 Illinois in 5-Set Thriller

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IOWA CITY, Iowa – After setting a career-high in kills on Friday night, Reghan Coyle lit up the court with a new personal-best 18 kills to lead the University of Iowa volleyball team to a thrilling five-set victory over 24th-ranked Illinois in Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday night. The victory marked the first time the Hawkeyes have topped the Fighting Illini since 2005.
“It feels great for our ladies,” said head coach Bond Shymansky. “They’re working so hard and showing so much fight each match. After a tough match against No. 3 Minnesota last weekend, here we are against another ranked Big Ten team, and we keep showing them that we’re one of the best teams in this league. Our drive and the terminal toughness we keep displaying in clutch moments is fantastic and I couldn’t be more excited for our young women.”
The Hawkeyes are now 17-7 overall and 7-5 in Big Ten action. Iowa’s seven league wins are the most for the program since 2000 when the squad finished the season with an 11-7 conference record. Illinois is now 14-9 overall and 7-5 in the B1G.
For the third time this season, five Hawkeyes reached double-digits in kills. In addition to Coyle, Jess Janota (17), Ashley Mariani (13), Meghan Buzzerio (11) and Lauren Brobst (10) contributed kills to give Iowa a .314 attack percentage against a team who has held opponents to an average of a .175 hitting percentage this season.
“A fantastic team effort from us again, and Brobst really got fired up during the end there,” said Shymansky. “But what can you say about Reghan Coyle, Jess Janota, Meghan Buzzerio and Ashley Mariani. They are just lightning for us right now. What a fantastic win for us here at home. We keep defending what we’re doing and building our terminal toughness through the course of the season.”
In addition to Buzzerio’s kills, the redshirt freshman notched 10 digs for her second double-double of the season. Loxley Keala had another career night with a personal-best 65 assists and nine digs. Annika Olsen amassed 22 digs and five assists.
With the score knotted at two sets each, the Hawkeyes came out fighting in set five. With the final set tied at 7-7, the home team used a 7-3 run to take a 14-10 advantage, forcing Illinois to call a timeout. Illinois attempted a comeback and had back-to-back scores, but a kill by Mariani silenced the Fighting Illini to clinch a 15-12 set win and a 3-2 match victory.
The Fighting Illini took an early 5-2 lead in set one, but Iowa stormed back with a 6-2 rally to take an 8-7 lead. The Hawkeyes trailed 14-16 when they caught fire and finished the set on an 11-4 run. Mariani (4), Buzzerio (1), Janota (1) and Coyle (1) racked up kills, while sophomore Molly Kelly chipped in an ace to secure the 25-20 set victory.
After dropping set two, the Hawkeyes capture a win in set three. Illinois held a 7-5 lead when the home team used a 5-2 run to knot the set at 9-9. The teams traded points before the Fighting Illini used a 6-2 stretch to take a 19-17 advantage. Iowa responded with an 8-2 run, bolstered by two kills each from Brobst, Coyle and Janota, to capture a 25-21 third-set victory.
Iowa fell in sets two and four. Set two featured 13 ties and six lead changes before the visitors clinched a 25-22 set win. Coyle racked up six kills and Janota added five. Set four contained 12 tie scores and just one lead change before Illinois captured a 26-24 win. Brobst amassed five kills, while Buzzerio and Janota each accumulated six.
Iowa continues league play next weekend as they travel to Rutgers on Friday and Penn State on Saturday. Rutgers is slated for a 6 p.m. (CT) first serve, while Penn State is scheduled for 3 p.m.