ISU Swept by Czechs; Drops Four-Game Decision to Azerbaijan
May 15, 2007
BRNO, Czech Republic - At the end of the second day of the Spring Cup Tournament at Brno's City Hall, the Redbirds were still winless. But competing against some of the best competition it has ever faced, Illinois State's volleyball team vastly improved its performance from the morning match to the evening session. The `Birds were swept by the hometown Czech Republican national team (25-17, 25-10 and 25-17), and dropped a four-game decision (23-25, 6-25, 25-18 and 15-25) to the Azerbaijan nationals.
Illinois State led just for just three points in game one, but battled with the Czechs for the first 20 possessions, before they mounted a 12-7 run mid-way through the frame to claim a 20-14 lead. The Czech Republic led by as many as seven points down the stretch, and capitalized on four ISU errors in the final 10 points to post the 25-17 victory and 1-0 lead in the best-of-five. Kari Staehlin recorded a commanding effort in the front row, collecting four kills and two blocks in the stanza.
The Czech Republic overwhelmed the Redbirds in the early stages of the second frame, jumping out to a dominating 16-2 lead. They tallied 10 team kills in the stretch. After a timeout, ISU buckled down, winning eight of the ensuing 17 points. But the Czechs put the finishing touches on a 25-10 triumph with two kills in the final six possessions. Kasey Mollerus, celebrating her 19th birthday, provided a solid defensive effort for the `Birds in the game, recording 12 digs.
The Redbirds led just once in the decisive third game, but didn't fall into a double-digit hole until the Czechs were only two points away from winning the match (23-13). Pratapas had two kills down the stretch, including one on the second-to-last possession that helped ISU fight off its third consecutive match point situation. But it wasn't enough to prevent a 25-17 win, and Czech Republic sweep.
Illinois State and Azerbaijan battled for the first 40 possessions of game one, combining for 12 ties in the stretch. The Redbirds tallied six kills in the first 15 points of the stanza, including three by M.C. Richmond. Azerbaijan opened up a 23-20 advantage after posting a quick 4-1 spurt, and never let ISU get closer than two points for the remainder of the frame. Richmond had four kills, while Staehlin led the game one Redbird offensive charge with five kills. Mollerus collected nine digs, and Lindsey chipped in with 12 set assists.
Game two belonged to Azerbaijan, as it jumped out to a 7-0 lead and never looked back. The advantage was extended to 20-5 18 possessions later after recording another 6-0 spurt. ISU scored just one point for the remainder of the game, and Azerbaijan clinched the 25-6 win on three consecutive Redbird attack errors.
Illinois State never trailed in game three, jumping out to a 6-0 advantage, and maintained that edge throughout the frame. Staehlin and Richmond combined for nine kills; Mollerus recorded nine digs, and Lindsey led a crisp offensive effort with eight set assists.
Azerbaijan answered with an early surge in the decisive fourth game, building a double-digit advantage (17-7) through 25 possessions. The Redbirds surged within eight points twice down the stretch, but a 4-2 game ending run clinched the 25-15 victory. Mollerus kept ISU in the match defensively, with a game-high 11 digs.
"This tournament has been such a great experience for our players," said head coach Sharon Dingman. "They have gotten the opportunity to play some incredible volleyball teams. This morning wasn't our best performance, but we responded very well in our second match. We're continuing to improve, and are excited about our second chance to play the Czechs tomorrow (Wednesday)."
The Redbirds will face the Czech Republic national squad Wednesday at 10 a.m. in the final match of the Spring Cup Tournament.