Review: Illinois won its third tournament of the year and remained unbeaten (9-0), as the No. 4 Illini won all three matches at the MTSU Invitational. The Orange and Blue swept Middle Tennessee State to begin the weekend, topped Cal Poly 3-1 and overcame a 2-0 deficit to capture the crown with a thrilling comeback victory over Tulsa.
Against MTSU, the Illini hit a sizzling .392 and limited the Blue Raiders to a hitting percentage of .189. Senior Michelle Bartsch paced the balanced Orange and Blue attack with 14 kills followed by fellow senior Colleen Ward with 12. Junior Erin Johnson chipped in nine kills while freshman Liz McMahon hit .800, connecting for eight kills in 10 attempts. It took a pair of stellar performances from Illinois' middle blockers, Johnson and Anna Dorn, to defeat Cal Poly. Johnson hit .636, posting 15 kills in 22 swings, while Dorn hit .579, connecting on 12 kills in 19 attempts. A week after grinding out a five-set victory over Dayton for the State Farm Illini Classic crown, Illinois repeated the feat over a tough Tulsa squad on Saturday night to capture the MTSU Invitational title. The Illini fell behind 2-0, just as they did against the Flyers, but battled back to take the final three sets. Five different Illini recorded double-digit kills while the squad hit a season-best .396 overall.
As a team, the Illini racked up the numbers with a .360 attack percentage and 29 total blocks. Bartsch paced the effort with 48 total kills on the weekend, giving her 1,239 for her career and placing her No. 9 on the Illinois all-time list. Johnson was next best with 40 kills while hitting .541 while fellow middle blocker Dorn had the highest hitting percentage on the weekend at .551 with 29 kills. Ward was solid with 37 kills and McMahon came up big in key situations, totaling 25 kills and hitting .426. It was all made possible by a great weekend from Luhrsen, who combined for 157 assists.
Preview: Illinois will host the Big Ten/Big East Challenge at Huff Hall. The Illini will face Cincinnati on Friday, Sept. 16 followed by Louisville on Saturday, Sept. 17, with each match slated to begin at 7 p.m.
No. 20 Soccer (6-2-0, 0-0)
Review: The No. 20 nationally-ranked Fighting Illini soccer team split its weekend series at the LSU Invitational in Baton Rouge, La., dropping a match to No. 13 Pepperdine, 4-2, before drubbing Oregon, 5-0. The blowout victory over the Ducks marks the fourth contest this season the Illini have scored at least five goals, the first year since 2000 the Orange and Blue have achieved this feat. Sophomore forward Megan Pawloski had an exceptionally productive weekend in Baton Rouge, producing three goals and one assist in only 103 minutes of action, earning LSU Invitational All-Tournament Team honors as a result.
Against Pepperdine on Friday evening, Pawloski tallied Illinois' first goal of the contest, driving home a shot in the 56th minute on a pass from Shayla Mutz to pull the Illini within one goal of tying. Pawloski followed with her first assist on the season, distributing the ball to classmate Jannelle Flaws in the box, where Flaws was able to convert to reach the final score, 4-2.
Against Oregon on Sunday morning, Pawloski continued to find success, recording Illinois' third and fourth goals of the game in the span of six minutes near the start of the second half, officially making the contest a rout. Senior Jackie Guerra, another all-tournament honoree, got the Illini on the board with a shot in the 17th minute, tallying her first collegiate goal, which was also the game-winner. Guerra controlled a loose ball 25 yards from the net and blasted a shot that ricocheted off the crossbar and fell into the back of the net. Senior Julie Ewing added to the lead in the 40th minute on a pass from freshman Stephanie Pouse. Ewing controlled the ball in the center of the Oregon goalie box and fired into the net for her third goal of the season.
With Illinois entering the second half ahead, 2-0, while Oregon pressed to gain some sort of attacking rhythm, Pawloski scored at the 55:09 and 61:27 marks to put the Orange and Blue ahead, 4-0. Pawloski took a pass from Niki Read in the box in the 56th minute and shot past Oregon's goalkeeper, Abby Steele, before achieving the same feat only six minutes later. In the 62nd minute, Pawloski one-timed a shot from 10 yards away on a crossing pass from Flaws, firing the attempt over Steele's head. Sophomore Vanessa DiBernardo, the final all-tournament team member representing the Illini, concluded scoring in the 86th minute, placing a 25-yard free kick into the net from the left side of the field.
Preview: Illinois (6-2-0) heads to Iowa (7-0-0) for its next contest, which is also the Big Ten Conference opener for both teams. The Orange and Blue will meet the Hawkeyes on Sunday, Sept. 18, at 1 p.m. CT, after Iowa hosts Northern Iowa on Thursday, Sept. 14.
Women's Cross Country
Review: The Fighting Illini women's cross country team rolled past the competition at the Bradley Open in Peoria, Ill., on Friday, winning the three-mile race with 16 points. Junior Maddie Aufmann took first place overall with a time of 17:13, marking the first individual crown of her career. The Illini placed all nine runners in the top 15, including the top four collegiate runners.
Sophomores Katie Porada (17:17) and Meghan Frigo (17:22) finishing in second and third overall, respectively in both runners season debut. Freshman Colette Falsey crossed the finish line fourth overall, just a second behind Frigo in a time of 17:23.
Preview: The Illini return home to run the Big Ten Championship course, as they host the Orange and Blue Preview on Friday, Sept. 16 at 4:30 p.m.
Men's Cross Country
Review: The Illini men were off last week.
Preview: The Illini will host the Orange and Blue Preview on Sept. 16 at 5:15 p.m.
Review: The Illinois women's golf team finished the first day of the Ptarmigan Ram Fall Classic in third out of 19 teams after posting a team total of 579 (+3), just four shots back of tournament leader UC Davis (-1) after 36 holes. The Illini fired a second round mark of 287 (-1), which ranks second in school history, while they opened the day with a score of 292 (+4), tying the sixth-best round in program history, at the par-72, 6,302-yard Ptarmigan Country Club.
Preview: The third and final round of the Ptarmigan Ram Fall Classic begins with a shotgun start at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday. For live stats and a full recap of the final round, check Fightingillini.com.
No. 13 Men's Golf
Review: At its season-opening fall tournament, No. 13 Illinois tied for sixth with Purdue at the Northern Intercollegiate, posting a team total of 891 (+39) for the 54-hole event. Sophomore Thomas Pieters paced the Orange and Blue, coming in eighth individually with a tournament total 217 (+4), while senior Luke Guthrie placed 11th with a 219 (+6). The Illini recorded scores of 295 during the first two rounds before closing the competition with a 301 at the par-71, 6,954-yard Rich Harvest Farms.
Preview: Illinois will host the Olympia Fields/Fighting Illini Invitational from Sept. 16-18 at the Olympia Fields Country Club.
Review: The University of Illinois softball team opened its fall ball schedule with a drubbing of Kankakee, 10-0, at Eichelberger Field on Sunday afternoon. A trio of Illini pitchers held the Cavaliers to just three hits, striking out 15 batters in the process, while sophomore catcher Jenna Mychko, who went 3-for-3 with a three-run homer and two singles, led Illinois at the plate.
Preview: Illinois (1-0) continues fall play with an 11 a.m. contest on Eichelberger Field against Parkland on Sept. 18. Admission to all softball games at Eichelberger Field is free to all fans.