CHAMPAIGN — M.C. Richmond recorded a career-high 18 kills, but for the second straight day four-time Big South Conference champion Winthrop overcame a two-game deficit and defeated the Redbirds 24-30, 25-30, 30-28, 30-21, 15-13 in the finale of the State Farm Illini Classic Saturday night at Huff Hall.
Earlier in the day, a strong hitting performance by four-time Horizon League regular-season champion Wisconsin-Milwaukee did in the Redbirds 30-23, 30-17, 30-23.
ISU went 0-3 in the season-opening tourney after losing to Illinois Friday night. The Redbirds have their home opener at 7 p.m. Tuesday against Northern Illinois at Redbird Arena.
Winthrop (2-1) came back from a 2-0 hole to upend Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the first round Friday afternoon.
“Winthrop’s postseason experience really came into play late in this match,” said ISU coach Sharon Dingman. “I told our team that before the match — they have the experience that we just don’t have. We’ll get that experience. It is just going to take time.”
Dingman made a change in her lineup against Winthrop, going with three middle blockers in Kristin Dziubla, Richmond and Kari Staehlin, all over 5-foot-11. Freshman Peggy Riessen (13 kills), setter Erin Lindsey and libero Kelly Waterstraat rounded out the starters.
“I think we had the right lineup on the floor tonight,” said Dingman. “I don’t know how much more we can ask Peggy Riessen to do. She just got fatigued out there. We need to get more out of our bench than we did tonight.”
Wisconsin-Milwaukee recorded a team hitting percentage of .293 against ISU. Outside hitter Jamie Gabrielsen led the Panthers with 12 kills while hitting .588.
ISU was led by Richmond, who had 10 kills and a .368 hitting percentage. Staehlin added nine kills, while Riessen had seven. Lindsey chipped in with 33 set assists.
“We played a lot of people today because we were searching for somebody to calm the team down,” said Dingman after the Wisconsin-Milwaukee loss. “For whatever reason, I think we were internalizing our pressure out there on the court. We just didn’t compete to the level we need to in order to be successful.
“Hopefully this was our one bad effort of the season. Last year it was Cleveland State; hopefully when we look back on things, we can say that our one bad performance of the season was against Milwaukee.”