IOWA CITY, Iowa – In its first game in 419 days, the University of Iowa volleyball team dropped its season opener to Illinois in four sets on Friday night inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The Hawkeyes lost the first set, won the second set, were ahead in the fourth set, but ultimately fell, 3-1, to open the 2021 season.
Iowa was led by junior Courtney Buzzerio (14 kills), sophomore Blythe Rients (12 kills), and freshman Bailey Ortega (19 assists).
HOW IT HAPPENED
SET 1 (Illinois, 25-20): The Hawkeyes started the match with a 6-2 run with a pair of kills from junior middle blocker Hannah Clayton and Buzzerio. Illinois went on its own run with three aces by senior Kylie Bruder and a pair of kills from junior Mica Allison and senior Megan Cooney to take an 8-6 lead. The teams traded points down the stretch. Tied at 19 all, Illinois rattled off six of the next seven points .
SET 2 (Iowa, 25-23): For most of the set, the two teams traded points. Iowa took a 19-15 lead on a Blythe Rients kill to force an Illini timeout. Buzzerio lead the team with seven kills in the set. Illinois led 23-21, but Iowa scored the next four points on a service error and three attacking errors to tie the match at one.
SET 3 (Illinois, 25-15): Illinois jumped out to a 6-2 lead. The Hawkeyes trailed 11-5, and tried to mount a comeback after a timeout, but feel 25-15 in the third set.
SET 4: (Illinois, 25-23) The final set was a fight to the finish. Iowa led 13-11 out of the gate, forcing an Illinois timeout. Iowa held a 21-16 lead after a kill by freshman Audrey Black, and then Illinois went on a six-point run to take the lead, 22-21. Illinois’s Megan Cooney put the ball away on match point to give them a win 25-23.
HEAR FROM COACH BROWN
“Three of those sets we were leading the pack. Anytime in this conference a team is down, they’re going to make subtle adjustments. We got a little jumpy in those adjustments from our blocking strategies and defensively. That’s a little bit of first match jitters. We have to keep our foot on the gas pedal towards the end.”
Freshman Bailey Ortega made her first career start at setter in her first career game. Ortega registered a team-high 19 assists and added five digs.
Sophomore Joslynn Boyer made her first career start at libero. Boyer also reached a new career high in digs (15).
Freshman Audrey Black made her first career appearance and tallied a career high in kills (4).
The Hawkeyes wrap up opening weekend against Illinois at noon (CT) inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.