Redbirds Rally Past the Ramblers
Written by Nick Imparo on October 18, 2019
NORMAL- Despite being without two of their stars, the Illinois State Redbirds (12-7, 5-2) handed Loyola (13-7, 6-1) their first conference loss when they defeated the Ramblers in four sets, (19-25, 25-19, 25-13, 26-24), Friday night at Redbird Arena.
Loyola opened the match on a 7-1 scoring run that ultimately forced Illinois State Head Coach, Leah Johnson to take an early timeout. Even following the timeout, the Redbirds were never really able to get anything going. Illinois State eventually went on to trail by as much as seven and despite a late push led by freshman Emmy Ogogor, Loyola would hold on and win the first set, 25-19, taking a 1-0 lead in the match. “We talked about taking off the handcuffs, we had ourselves handcuffed.” said Coach Johnson. “I think we played better at the end of set of set 1 which helped us into set 2.”
In set #2, it was a different story. The Redbirds jumped out to an early 5-2 lead and never looked back. Loyola stuck around for most of the set cutting their deficit to just one but never pulled through enough to gain any lead. The Redbirds then went on a couple late scoring runs eventually winning set #2, 25-19, tying the best-of-five match, at 1 set, apiece.
Loyola opened set #3 with an early 2-0 lead but Illinois State was able to get on the board with Kaylee Martin’s fifth kill of the match. After tying the set up at 8, apiece, the Redbirds went on a 9-point run forcing Loyola Head Coach, Amanda Berkley to take a timeout. Following the timeout, there was still no stop from the Redbirds. Illinois State went on to win the third set, 25-13 on an attacking error on Loyola. The win gave ISU a 2-1 set lead heading to the fourth set.
In set #4, Illinois State jumped out to an early 5-3 lead, off a kill by Taylor Lynch. Loyola did not go away though. The Ramblers would tie things up on 5 different occasions forcing Illinois State to dig deep. After trailing 15-13, the Ramblers fought their way back to take a 21-20, lead. The Redbirds then went on a 5-0 scoring run to take the set, 26-24 and the match, 3 sets to 1.
After the match, ISU Head Coach Leah Johnson talked about the absences of Kendal Meier (hand, 6-8 weeks) and Captain Stef Jankiewicz (undisclosed) and the adjustments that had to be made. “We had some lineup changes due to some unfortunate circumstances. We talked about before the game how we’ve been tested constantly and how we went from having veterans on the court to losing a libero veteran and losing a setter veteran and now we’re at five freshman on the court at any given time” said Johnson. “We’re playing with such grit and I just want to commend our setters coming in, Carli (Nicholson) and Allie (Otten) for doing a fabulous job and the team for keeping it’s composure after set 1 and just being fearless after that.”
Illinois State is back in action on Saturday night when they host Valparaiso (8-13, 3-4), at 5:00.
Coach Johnson says her team’s next match will be a challenging one. “Valpo is good, they’ve got a few players back that had been injured and since those players have returned, they’ve gone 3-0. They run the slide really well. If we can defend the slide, we should be in good shape.’ says Johnson. ‘They’re the best passing team in the league, which makes it harder to defend. I think it’s going to be another gritty match.”