Review: It was fitting on Labor Day weekend that the Illini would need to work a little harder and dig a little deeper. On a steamy couple of days at Huff Hall, No. 7 Illinois wrapped up its 21st State Farm Illini Classic in the tournament's 28-year history, including its sixth straight, but it was anything but easy.
For the third time in the last eight years, the championship match against a ranked opponent went five sets and for the third time Illinois claimed the victory. Spotting 21st-ranked Dayton (4-2) a two-set advantage, the Illini stormed back for an 18-25, 20-25, 25-20, 25-23, 15-12 victory in a match that didn't end until nearly 11 pm. The victory coupled with a four-set triumph over Houston in the morning moves Illinois' record to 61-7 all-time at the Illini Classic and keeps the Illini a perfect 6-0 on the young season.
The Illini battled back from down 2-1 against No. 1 USC to win in 2004 and 2-0 down to No. 11 Oregon to take the 2008 title tilt in five sets. Saturday night's match also marked the third time since 2006 that Dayton and Illinois have gone the distance, but the first time Illinois has come out on top.
Senior Michelle Bartsch earned tournament MVP honors for the second straight tournament after an incredible all-around weekend, totaling 64 kills (4.92 per set) and 59 digs (4.54) per set while hitting .273. Colleen Ward (49 kills, 42 digs) and Erin Johnson (32 kills, 11 blocks, .324 attack percentage) joined Bartsch on the all-tournament team.
In the first match of the tournament vs. Tennessee, Bartsch posted just the third 20-20 performance in nine years with 21 kills and 23 digs. Saturday Bartsch had her second such night in a row with 24 kills and 20 digs vs. Dayton and despite sitting out much of the third set against Houston, wound up with 19 kills and 16 digs vs. the Cougars.
Illinois defeated Tennessee, a team ranked 24th in the preseason polls, 31-29, 25-23, 23-25, 25-19 in the opener in front of a "Stuff Huff" crowd of 2,619
The Illini played 12 players overall in a tight match. Sophomore Rachel Feldman played libero in the third set for Jennifer Bonilla, who battling the heat and Johnson called it a "seamless transition." The back row defense was strong for most of the match for the Illini with just four reception errors in 86 attempts while putting five players in double figures in digs - Bartsch (23), Ward (16), Jennifer Beltran (16), Feldman (14) and setter Annie Luhrsen (11 to along with 45 assists and four kills).
Preview: Next up is a trip to Murfreesboro, Tenn., where Illinois will face MTSU, Cal Poly and Tulsa in the final non-conference road matches of the year on Sept. 9-10.
No. 17 Soccer (5-1-0, 0-0)
Review: The No. 17 nationally-ranked Illinois soccer team dropped its first contest of the season to USC, 3-1, on Friday, Sept. 2, before twice coming from behind against Colorado to earn a 3-2 victory on Sunday, Sept. 4.
Against USC, the Trojans tallied the first three goals of the game before sophomore midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo notched a tally in the 74th minute as the Illini cut into the defecit. The Orange and Blue continued to pressure over the final 16 minutes, tallying four more shots; however, Illinois was unable to record another goal.
Against Colorado, the Illini fell behind by one goal on two seperate occasions; however, DiBernardo rallied Illinois to its fifth victory of the season. Down, 1-0, in the 51st minute, senior midfielder/forward Marissa Mykines recorded her third goal of the season on a shot from inside the 18-yard box to tie the game at 1-1. After Colorado scored on a penalty kick in the 68th minute, DiBernardo subbed back into the contest in the 70th minute. At the 71:45 mark, the Naperville, Ill., native tallied her first goal of the game on a shot into the lower-right corner to re-tie the contest. Only two minutes and 26 seconds later, the Waubonsie Valley High School graduate recorded the game-winner on a shot into the lower-left corner for her eighth goal in only six games.
Preview: Illinois (5-1-0) continues its schedule as one of four participating teams in the LSU Tournament, held in Baton Rouge, La., from Sept. 9-11. The Orange and Blue open tournament action against the University of Oregon on Friday, Sept. 9, at 5 p.m. CT before facing No. 24 Pepperdine at 11 a.m. CT on Sunday, Sept. 11.
Women's Cross Country
Review: Illinois freshman Colette Falsey led the Orange and Blue as the team's top finisher with a 12th-place finish at the Illini Challenge on Friday at the UI Arboretum. Falsey ran a 4K time of 15:25 in her Illini debut, leading Illinois to a third-place finish in the tune-up meet.
Fellow freshmen Alyssa Schneider and Britten Petrey had solid starts to their collegiate careers as they finished second and third for the Illini and 13th and 14th overall, respectively. Schneider crossed the finish line with a time of 15:27 while Petrey finished with a time of 15:31. Other finishers for the Orange and Blue included junior Meagan Hynes (21st, 16:06), freshman Chloe Schmidt (24th, 16:10) and sophomore Megumi Hoshi (30th, 16:58).
The Illini Challenge provided Illinois with a chance for the majority of the underclassmen to compete and earn valuable race experience. Out of the Illini's seven freshmen, four ran in Friday's race and all finished in the top 25.
Preview: Next weekend, the Illini will compete at the Bradley Open in Peoria, Ill., on Friday, Sept. 9 at 5 p.m. CT.
Men's Cross Country
Review: The Illinois men's cross country team opened the season with its seventh consecutive title at the Illini Challenge at the UI Arboretum on Friday. The squad had a strong first showing of the season scoring 21 points, followed by Butler University in second (62) and Purdue in third (75).
Four of the top six finishers were in Orange and Blue, led by senior Chris DeSilva. DeSilva took the individual crown with a 6K time of 18:50 followed by teammates Jordan Hebert (18:56) in third Tom Achtien (18:57) in fourth and Nathan Troester (19:08) in sixth. Freshman Mark Donohue rounds out the Illini scoring with a 12th-place finish and a time of 19:32.
Preview: The Illini have next weekend off before hosting the Orange and Blue Preview on Sept. 16 at 5:15 p.m.
Preview: The Illini women's golf team kicks off their fall season next week at the Ptarmigan Ram Classic from Sept. 12-13 in Ft. Collins, Colo.
No. 13 Men's Golf
Preview: The Illini men's golf team begins their fall slate this weekend at the Northern Intercollegiate from Sept. 10-11 in Sugar Grove, Ill.