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Redbird Volleyball Defeats Marquette

Written by on January 24, 2021

Phot courtesy of goredbirds.com

Story by Jake Fogal

NORMAL Ill.- Bouncing back, a skill set that will be of the utmost importance for any volleyball squad suiting up in the Missouri Valley this season was put on display by the Illinois State Redbirds on Saturday, as they took down No. 20 Marquette in five setsA day prior, the Redbirds found themselves swept by the Golden Eagles. 

In the fall of 2019, ISU and Marquette met in Normal, and put on a show for fans in attendance.  Defeating the Redbirds 21-19 in the fifth set of that classic was on the mind of Head coach Leah Johnson down the stretch of today’s contest. 

“Right around the 10th point when we lost the lead and then tied it up again,( referring to the fifth set on Saturday), there were flashbacks to last season when Marquette came to our place, even though this team looks a lot different than last year’s,” said Johnson.  

“Personally, I had to breathe through it, just like we tell the players to breathe through it. The team trusted their training and executed.” 

Illinois State took set one without much fight from the Golden Eagles, bringing a new level of energy to Milwaukee that had been seen the day prior. Though the Eagles returned the favor and snuck past the Redbirds late for a win in set two, 25-21. 

While ISU dominated the third set, Marquette did much of the same in the fourth. As coach Johnson’s group was hitting on odds, and Marquette was winning evens, the final fifth set came down the wire. 

Neither team led by more than two points the whole way through, but back-to-back kills by Kaylee Martin, and an attack error on Marquette secured a 16-14 win in the fifth and final set for ISU. 

A performance driven behind the senior class, the tandem of MVC First Team Selections Stef Jankiewicz and Martin put on a show, that has not been seen since 2019. Jankiewicz assisted her teammates 47 times, but also made her presence felt on the front row, totaling seven blocks and a career-high eight kills. 

Martin led the Redbirds in kills, totaling 22. Looking much more fluent in day-two, Coach Johnson challenged her team after yesterday’s sweep to improve on the middle and right side of the front line, earning their own points. 

Through three sets, ISU had totaled 44 kills of their 61. Improvements on the defense-block was emphasized on Friday, but through a team effort. Totaling 27 blocks, ISU cleaned up their front court after a poor performance on Friday.  

Jankiewicz and senior Sydney Holt led the block party for Illinois State, both having seven. Certainly, a significant difference maker on Saturday 

The front court was not the only producers for the Redbirds, as Sarah Kushner had a tremendous defensive performance, having 20 digs and three blocks. 

Three Redbirds secured a double-double, Martin, Jankiewicz and Kusher. Illinois State is next in action on Monday facing the Bradley Braves at 6 p.m.