Illinois State Upends Croation Junior Nationals in Five Games
May 18, 2007
ZAGREB, Croatia - Kari Staehlin recorded a dominant performance in the front row with 11 kills and nine blocks to lead Illinois State's volleyball team to a come-from-behind, five-game (12-25, 17-25, 25-22, 25-23 and 15-11) win over the Croation Junior National Team in Pula, Croatia Thursday afternoon. M.C. Richmond added 10 kills to aid in the ISU output, while Kasey Mollerus contributed 43 digs defensively, unofficially her career-high mark. The win was the first for the Redbirds on their International European Tour.
Game one showed early indication of a similar result as ISU's four matches at the Czech Republic based Spring Cup Tournament, where the `Birds were competitive in the early stages before being outlasted by more physical, experienced teams. The Croations jumped out to the early 12-5 lead, and extended their advantage to double-digits (15-5) mid-way through the stanza. ISU fell behind by as many as 14 points, and allowed Croatia to finish the game on a 10-7 run in clinching the 25-12 victory and 1-0 lead in the best of five. Richmond and Jessica Pratapas each tallied two kills to pace the Redbird offensive effort, while Mollerus dug 10 balls.
The Croatians, who defeated national powerhouse Stanford in their European Tour last spring, continued to apply pressure in game two, claiming a commanding 14-7 advantage. But after falling behind by nine points (21-13); the Redbirds mounted a 4-1 spurt that pulled them within five, 22-17. The Croatians finished the stanza on a 3-0 run to go up 2-0, but for the first time in the match, ISU had a considerable amount of offensive efficiency.
Game three was a deadlocked battle through the opening 20 possessions, as the score was tied at 10-10 following Richmond's second kill in the previous five points. The Croatians led by as many as three points twice in the ensuing seven possessions before the `Birds re-tied the score at 17-17 after forcing back-to-back Croatian hitting errors. Richmond accounted for the next two points, tallying a kill and an assisted block with Staehlin. The Croations re-gained the lead at 22-21 following an Illinois State attack error, but Staehlin's third kill of the game two points later gave the Redbirds the lead for good, spearheading a 3-0 run to end the game. Erin Lindsey and Staehlin clinched the win with an assisted block to produce the 25th point. Richmond, Staehlin and Peggy Riessen collected three kills apiece in the game.
Game four had a similar beginning, with the Croatians grabbing an early three-point edge (11-8). But the `Birds tied the stanza at 11-11 three points later after a service ace by Richmond. Illinois State claimed its first lead of the game at 16-15 following a Croatian error, helping propel a 5-0 spurt with Staehlin behind the service line. Four possessions later, a kill by Katie Seyller gave ISU its biggest advantage at 20-16, a lead the Redbirds would not relinquish. The Croatians twice cut the lead to one point down the stretch, but Staehlin put the finishing touches on the game and 2-2 best of five tie with her ninth kill of the match.
Illinois State controlled the early stages of the decisive fifth game, jumping out to a 7-3 advantage. Richmond, Staehlin and Seyller each tallied kills in the stretch. Croatia eventually cut the lead to one, but Staehlin and Pratapas each collected kills in the final three points to clinch the come-from-behind triumph. Eight of ISU's 15 points in the stanza came off kills or blocks.
The Redbirds have two matches remaining on their European Tour, with one each in Pula, Croatia (Saturday) and Pordenone, Italy (Monday).