Review: No. 3 Illinois went on the road to begin Big Ten play last weekend and picked up a pair of victories over No. 9 Minnesota and Wisconsin, which earned the Illini the No. 1 ranking in the AVCA Top-25 poll for the first time in school history. The Illini remained perfect at 13-0 while the two teams ahead of them in rankings stumbled in Pac-12 conference play, vaulting the Orange and Blue to the top spot. The Illini also sit atop the Big Ten standings at 2-0 along with Nebraska and Purdue.
On Friday night, the Illini defeated No. 9 Minnesota 3-2 (20-25, 25-18, 25-22,20-25, 15-10) at the Sports Pavilion, marking the third straight time an Illinois-Minnesota match went five sets with the road team coming out on top. The Orange and Blue overcame a slow start and used a 16-4 blocking advantage to win a top-10 showdown in its Big Ten opener. The Illini only hit .201 on the night but limited Minnesota to a .174 percentage, including two sets with negative marks. The team's 16 blocks matched a season high while the 32 errors by Minnesota was the most by an Illinois opponent this season.
The Illini had four blocks in the final frame against the Gophers, including on each of the first three points to grab an early advantage they never relinquished. Junior middle blocker Erin Johnson finished the night with a double-double, leading the team with a .435 attack percentage while tallying 11 kills and 10 blocks. Both of Illinois' outside hitters notched double-doubles as well, as senior Michelle Bartsch had a match-high 23 kills and 14 digs and senior Colleen Ward turned in 16 kills and 12 digs.
On Sunday afternoon, Illinois cruised past Wisconsin for its fifth sweep of the season. The Illini made quick work of the Badgers, winning 25-18, 25-17, 25-22 in front of 3,686 fans in attendance at the Fieldhouse. After taking a 7-6 lead in the opening set, Illinois controlled the remainder of the match and never trailed again. The Badgers had double the amount of attack errors as the Illini (22-11) and posted nine service errors with zero aces. On the other side of the court, Illinois served strong with six aces, led by three from senior Michelle Bartsch. Senior Colleen Ward led the offensive attack with a match-high 12 kills while Bartsch turned in her 10th double-double of the year and third straight with 10 kills and 10 digs. The Illini out-hit the Badgers .213-.133 and held the advantage on the blocking front 7-6.5.
Preview: Illinois returns home this weekend for a pair of Big Ten matches versus Indiana (8-6) and No. 13 Purdue (13-0). The Illini will square off against the Hoosiers on Friday night followed by a showdown with the Boilermakers on Saturday night. Both contests are slated to begin at 7 p.m. at Huff Hall.
No. 22 Soccer (6-4-1, 0-2-1)
Review: The No. 22 nationally-ranked soccer team dropped both road games on the Sept. 23-25 weekend, falling at Ohio State, 2-1, on Friday evening before being shutout by Penn State, 1-0, on Sunday afternoon.
Ohio State struck first, with Lauren Granberg recording her first of two goals on the contest, finishing the play with a touch from approximately eight yards away from the net to put the Buckeyes ahead, 1-0, at the 25:00 mark.
However, only 12 minutes and 35 seconds later the Illini found the equalizer as the Illinois offense maintained pressure on Ohio State throughout the contest, earning the goal as a result of its diligence. With the Buckeyes controlling the ball outside their goalie box, Flaws intercepted a failed clearing attempt and buried an attempt into the back of the net from 10 yards away to knot the contest at 1-1.
The score remained tied into the second half until Granberg struck a second time with the eventual game-winner on a header goal from six yards away in the 57th minute. Illinois was able to maintain control of play for much of the remainder of the contest, while the Illini defense clamped down and did not allow the Buckeyes another shot attempt in the final 33 minutes. The Illinois offense continued pressure with a barrage of shots following the second Ohio State goal, totaling 11 more en route to a 20-9 shots advantage for the contest. Baumgardner prevented junior midfielder Nicole Denenberg's blast in the 64th minute before stopping an on-frame attempt by Flaws only four minutes later. Senior Marissa Mykines followed with a quality shot at the 74:53 mark, with Baumgardner stopping Mykines' attempt before saving Ewing's strike that followed immediately.
Illinois' last attempts came in the 89th minute, with sophomore Vanessa DiBernardo's shot being blocked by a wall of players at the 88:45 mark before senior defender Jenna Carosio put a rebound shot over the net six second after.
The Orange and Blue fell behind against Penn State after playing scoreless soccer through 38 minutes, as Nittany Lion Ali Schaefer connected with a shot into the upper-left corner of the netting for the only goal of the contest.
Preview: The Orange and Blue (6-4-1, 0-2-1) return home following their program-record five game regular season road stretch to host Indiana (5-5-1, 1-2-0) on Friday, Sept. 30 for a 7 p.m. CT contest. Illinois will then take to the field at Illinois Soccer Stadium against Purdue (3-7-1, 0-2-1) at 1 p.m. CT on Sunday, Oct. 2.
Review: The University of Illinois softball team continued its fall slate with a pair of wins over the weekend. The Illini posted a dominant performance at the plate, in the field and in the circle on Friday evening, downing Heartland, 8-0, before winning in convincing fashion over a collegiate foe for the third consecutive game, shutting out Valparaiso, 8-0, during a nine-inning contest on Eichelberger Field on Sunday afternoon.
Preview: The Illini return to action on Sept. 30 at 3 p.m. CT when Illinois hosts Parkland on Eichelberger Field in a make-up contest. Illinois and Parkland were initially scheduled to meet on Sunday, Sept. 18; however, rains in the Champaign-Urbana area forced the postponement of the contest.
Review: The Illini men's tennis team continued its fall season at the University of Virginia Ranked +1 Invitational last weekend in Charlottesville, Va. The Orange and Blue went 7-4 in singles action and 1-2 in doubles play throughout the three-day tournament.
Senior Roy Kalmanovich led the Illini over the weekend, going 3-1 in singles action and playing his way to the first-place final in his draw. The Framingham, Mass., native, who is ranked No. 71 nationally, took down No. 25 Luka Somen of Virginia Tech in a 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 battle and tallied two straight-set victories en route to his first-place match. The senior struggled in the final round, however, as Kalmanovich took on his second ranked opponent in as many days, losing to No. 18 Jarmere Jenkins, 6-2, 6-2.
Meanwhile, junior Bruno Abdelnour posted his own successful weekend, fighting his way to a third-place finish in his draw with a 2-1 mark in singles play. On day one, the Syria native picked up a hard-fought win over North Carolina's Oysten Steiro, 5-7, 6-2, 6-0. Abdelnour advanced to the semifinals with a walkover against the nation's top-ranked freshman, Mitchell Frank of Virginia, the following day before losing a 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 heartbreaker to Daniel Kreyman of Wake Forest. In his final match, Abdelnour claimed a convincing 6-4, 6-4 victory over George Washington's Francisco Dias to capture third place in his bracket.
Fellow junior Stephen Hoh went 2-2 on the weekend, finishing with a solid 7-5, 6-2 victory over East Tennessee State's Roger Ordeig. The Australia native teamed up with Abdelnour in doubles play, as the Illini tandem captured its first victory of the 2011 fall season on the final day of the tournament, downing George Washington duo Francisco Dias and Ugur Atalay, 8-5.
Preview: The Orange and Blue will return to action in two weeks at the D'Novo All-American Championships, Oct. 6-9 in Tulsa, Okla.
Men's Cross Country
Review: The Fighting Illini men's cross country team was off last weekend.
Preview: The Illini have a few weeks off before they travel to Madison, Wis., to compete in the Wisconsin adidas Invitational on Oct. 14 at 1 p.m. CT.
Women's Cross Country
Review: The Fighting Illini women's cross country team was off last weekend.
Preview: The Illini will travel to Chicago, Ill., this Saturday, Oct. 1 to compete in the Sean Earl Lakefront Invitational, starting at 11:15 a.m. CT.
No. 13 Men's Golf
Review: The Illinois men's golf team was off last weekend.
Preview: Illinois returns to action this weekend at the D.A. Weibring Invitational in Normal, Ill., from Oct. 1-2.
Review: The Illinois women's golf team was off last weekend.
Preview: Illinois will be back in action this weekend from Sept. 30-Oct. 2 in Lexington, Ky., for the Bettie Lou Evans Fall Invitational.
Review: The Illini women's tennis team was off last weekend.
Preview: The Illini will return to action at the Wildcat Invitational, Sept. 30-Oct. 2 in Evanston, Ill., and at All-American Pre-Qualifying, Oct. 1-2 in Pacific Palisades, Calif.