UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Illinois upset defending national champion No. 5 Penn State 3-1 at Rec Hall Saturday afternoon. The No. 15 Fighting Illini improve to 12-5 (4-2 Big Ten), while the Nittany Lions fall to 16-3 (4-2 Big Ten).
Illinois made a personnel change prior to the match, opting to go with Alexis Viliunas as the sole setter and moving Allison Palmer to the role of serving specialist, where she landed an ace. As a result, Julia Conard had the chance to play back row for Liz McMahon, where she broke her personal best with a match-leading 18 digs. Viliunas tallied 47 assists to go along with eight digs, three kills and two blocks, and libero Brandi Donnelly posted 14 digs.
The Fighting Illini pin hitters dominated the offense, led by Jocelynn Birks, who had a double-double with 19 kills and 12 digs, hitting .472. McMahon was not far behind with 17 kills, and Katie Roustio posted a career-high 11 with three digs and two blocks. With their performance, Birks (1,259) and McMahon (1,249) both passed Betsy Spicer (1997-00) into ninth and 10th place, respectively, on the Illini’s career kills list.
Penn State entered the match leading the conference with a .129 opponent hitting percentage, but the Illini were nearly error free, hitting just three balls out of bounds or into the net the entire match, to post an impressive .315 clip against the Nittany Lions.
Katie Stadick posted eight kills and four blocks in the match, while Anna Dorn tied for the team lead with four blocks as well, including one solo.