In their first ever appearance, the West Virginia volleyball team took on Illinois in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Friday evening inside Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Kentucky, and fell to the Fighting Illini, three sets to one.
Illinois was led on the night by sophomore outside hitter Raina Terry’s 18 kills and 18.5 points while graduate outside hitter Megan Cooney ripped 15 kills and 17 points. Junior outside hitter Jessica Nunge and junior middle blocker Kennedy Collins also came up with double digit kills at 12 and 11 kills, respectively.
The Mountaineers were led by fifth year outside hitter Adrian Ell’s 19 kills and senior outside hitter Kristin Lux’s 12 kills.
The night began well for the Mountaineers after jumping out to an 8-2 advantage in the first set following a blocked assist from West Virginia’s Ell and fifth year middle blocker Briana Lynch. Ell helped record the Mountaineers first points of the day including three kills from the fifth-year senior.
Illinois clawed back into the first set after going down early and knotted the score with West Virginia four separate times in the set. Sophomore outside hitter Raina Terry and junior middle blocker Kennedy Collins ripped four kills apiece in the opening set.
That was before the Mountaineers pulled away on a pair of junior middle blocker Emmy Ogogor kills and a sophomore outside hitter Skye Stokes kill for the opening set win, 25-23.
Illinois came out a different team in the second set as Cooney made a block assist and a kill to help her Illini go up 5-0 early in the set. The Illini continued their romping in the second set as Collins made a couple kills as well as a block assist and service ace to go ahead in the second, 13-6.
Terry and Collins were then able to help extend the Illinois lead to almost a near victory with some kills to make it 21-10. Then Nunge stuck with a kill to give Illinois the second set, 25-12.
The third set looked like it may have West Virginia’s name on it when Ell ripped a kill to give the Mountaineers the 7-6 advantage. Illinois however struck with more fire power deeper into the set as Terry made a few of kills to give the Illini a 19-13 edge later into the third.
A kill from West Virginia’s Ell didn’t slow down the fighting Illini as the team earned a kill from Nunge and some block errors from the Mountaineers to then take the 23-16 Illinois advantage. Terry finished off the third set with a kill off a redshirt junior setter Diana Brown assist for the 25-22 third set victory.
The fourth set of action on Friday began a back and forth affair as both teams remained knotted until each got to 10 points. Illinois then began to pull away following four Cooney kills to give Illinois the 17-9 advantage.
West Virginia fifth year outside hitter Athena Ardila and Ell struck with some kills near the end of the fourth set but Illinois’ offensive players were too much for the Mountaineers. Terry whipped a couple kills before Cooney and Swanson each finished with a kill to lead Illinois to a 25-20 fourth set final and three to one set overall victory.
West Virginia now heads home after watching their hopes at an NCAA tournament championship title has been diminished in four sets. Illinois will advance to the second round of the tournament.