Sept. 18, 2010

Courtesy of Cincinnati

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Senior outside hitter and reigning BIG EAST Conference Player of the Week Stephanie Niemer  (Erlanger, Ky./St. Henry) had 28 kills to lead the University of Cincinnati to a 3-2 upset of No. 5 Illinois in the first match of the BIG EAST/Big Ten Challenge Friday afternoon in Cardinal Arena. It is the Bearcats second win vs. a Top 20 team in the last 10 days. UC knocked off then-No. 16 Kentucky, 3-2, on Tuesday, Sept. 7.

UC improves its record to 9-3 with the 22-25, 19-25, 25-20, 25-16, 15-13 win vs. Illinois. The Illini, who drop to 9-3 despite hitting .290 in the match, were hampered by 18 service errors and five blocking errors. Cincinnati had 10 service aces and just three service errors of its own.

In the first set, UC recovered from an early 6-0 run by the Illini to tie the set at 21. Illinois got to game point on a kill by Colleen Ward and then Hillary Haen aced the Bearcats for the 25-22 win. The Bearcats hit .125 to the Illini's .364 in the set. Ward had nine kills on 10 swings to lead U of I. Niemer had five kills to lead Cincinnati.

Illinois had a 6-2 run midway through the second set to go up 20-15 and then used .300 hitting to push to the 25-19 win. Niemer's six kills in the set were not enough put UC over the top.

The Bearcats rallied after the break to take the third set, 25-20. Capitalizing on Illinois' hitting woes to notch their first three blocks of the match, the Bearcats' offense was led by Niemer's 10 kills and two blocks. Senior setter Annie Fesl (Arlington Heights, Ill./John Hersey) had two aces, including the set winner for the Bearcats. UC had a four-point lead at 16-13 but the Illini tied at 20 before the Bearcats shut down the rally with five straight points.

Energized by the win, UC carried its momentum into the fourth set and ran out to a seven-point lead at 14-7 and then held the Illini at arm's length for the 25-16 win. UC hit .189 to Illinois' .116 with five Bearcat aces, including Niemer's set winner.
 
In the final set, neither team could gain a foothold until the Bearcats went up 12-10 with a 3-1 run and forced an Illini timeout. Illinois tied the set at 13 but a kill by sophomore Emily Hayden (Louisville, Ky./Assumption) and an Illini miss by Megan Turner gave the upset to the Bearcats with the 15-13 win.