Champaign, Ill. - Freshman Liz McMahon had 14 kills and fellow freshman Jocelynn Birks added 10 kills to pace the Illini to a 25-18, 25-23, 25-15 victory over Tianjin, the top professional team from China, Tuesday night in front of about 500 fans at Huff Hall.
Birks, stepping into the starting role vacated by departing All-Americans Colleen Ward and Michelle Bartsch, hit .350 with six digs and three blocks. McMahon, playing all six rotations this spring, was a dominating force at times, hitting .565 for the match and committing just one hitting error.
Illinois as a team was super efficient, amassing just nine attack errors while hitting .405 for the match. The Illini were especially dominating in the fifth set, jumping to a 16-7 lead, hitting .538 compared to Tianjin's .171.
Tianjin began its United State swing with a tournament in Aurora, Ill., and will return to Chicago and fly to Los Angeles to continue the tour. Last year, the Illini needed to come back from 2-1 down and 19-15 in the fourth set to win the match in five. Tuesday night, the Illini dominated the first and third sets and battled back from a 17-15 deficit to take the second set.
McMahon had four of Illinois' six aces. The Illini had a 5-2 advantage in blocks, paced by three block assists apiece from Anna Dorn (7 kills, .545 attack perecentage) and Birks.Annie Luhrsen had 34 assists with 53 percent of her sets going for kills and tied for the team lead in digs with 10.
"It's the spring; we're going to be sloppy at times, but I think we were really good at times," Illinois head coach Kevin Hambly said. "Our young players are starting to figure it out. I think the match exemplified the spring in that we were better at the end than we were at the beginning."
The match ends the spring competition for the Illini.