CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - For senior Kaitlyn Schultz who led the Central Michigan offense with 11 kills, her senior season came to an end Friday night as third-seeded Illinois claimed a 3-0 (25-16, 25-22, 25-18) win in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Set one began with the Chippewas (19-14) falling into a 6-0 hole. Dulude got her team on the board with a kill, but the CMU offense remained cold. Down 16-6, Kaitlyn McIntyre and Danielle Gotham teamed up for kills and CMU forced the Fighting Illini (28-4) into a timeout with the set 19-13. Following the timeout, the Illinois defense forced the Chippewas into four errors and the Fighting Illini finished the set 25-16.
In set two the Chippewas came out inspired. Two back-to-back kills from Schultz had the team up 3-0, but it was the serve of Dulude who dropped in an ace and the Fighting Illini were forced into a timeout trailing 4-0. McIntyre would add two more kills and the Maroon and Gold stayed out in front at 8-5. Illinois battled back and tied the set at 10. The set remained close until two straight CMU attack errors gave the Fighting Illini a 22-20 lead. Illinois called a timeout after a block by the Chippewas, from Gotham and McIntyre, cut the lead to 24-22. One final kill from Illinois and set two was won 25-22.
The seventh-ranked Illini had the lead all through the beginning of the third set but CMU was never more than two points behind. Illinois started to pull ahead midway through the set, leading 13-9. Val DeWeerd tried to inspire her team with two straight kills, making the set 15-12. The Illinois offense was too much as they finished the match on an 8-3 run to claim a 25-18 win.
This was the first appearance in the NCAA Tournament for the Chippewas who earned their spot by winning the Mid-American Conference Tournament.