Review: The match will go down as one of the best regular season contests in Big Ten history. Over 5,200 fans watched the eighth-ranked and four-time defending national champion Penn State Nittany Lions battle No. 1 ranked Illinois at Rec Hall in State College. The match lasted nearly three hours and in the end the visiting Illini came away with an epic five-set victory 21-25, 25-21, 23-25, 25-21, 15-12. The win pushes the Illinois overall record to 17-0, keeps the Illini tied with Nebraska for first place in the Big Ten and ends Penn State's 68-match Big Ten home winning streak. The Lions fell to 11-5, 4-2 in the league.
The victory also marked just the second victory by the Illini at Penn State in 22 tries with the other win coming in 1995. A pair of freshmen came up huge for Illinois, especially at the end of the match. Liz McMahon had 14 kills and six block assists while hitting .270. Penn State, who had the big block going in the taking the first set, saw that fortune turn late in the match when freshman Anna Dorn tied an Illinois record with 13 block assists, four of which came in the final set.
Illinois trailed 1-0 and 2-1 in sets and then fell behind 14-9 and 17-14 in the fourth set, only to come roaring back. Not only Dorn, but also Johnson played a big role in bringing the Illini back in set four. Johnson was able to score on some back sets and finished the night hitting .417 with 11kills and four blocks. Trailing two sets to one, the Illini fell behind 12-7 and 17-14, but Illinois went on an 8-1 run, thanks in large part to the serving of setter Annie Luhrsen (44 assists, 15 digs) to force the fifth set.
Both teams took turns with big runs and the fifth set was no exception. The Illini jumped in front 4-1 only to see Penn State go back in front 7-5. The Illini got a kill by Dorn, two from McMahon and a block assist from the young guns to go back in front 9-7. Penn State had its ninth team ace of the match to tie it at 11-11, but the Illini block, which played havoc with the Nittany Lions' offense, forced three PSU attack errors as the match ended.
Illinois out-blocked Penn State 17-12.5, finally slowing down a strong match from sophomore Ariel Scott (who had 27 kills for Penn State). The Illini made some incredible scrambling plays in the back row. Michelle Bartsch paced five Illini in double-figure digs with 25.
Illinois defeated Ohio State 25-22, 25-12, 25-12 the night before in Columbus. Senior Colleen Ward had eight of her match-high 14 kills in the second set, pacing three Illinois players with double figure kills.
Illinois was especially potent in the second set, hitting .633 with a whopping 19 kills. Ward, who had four kills and four errors in the first set, exploded for eight kills in nine attacks, an .888 clip, as the Illini rolled to take the set. Senior Michelle Bartsch, who finished the night with 12 kills, had four in the second set on 11 swings. Freshman Liz McMahon, playing in front of many of her family and friends in her home state, was impressive as well, hitting .588 with 11 kills and one block assist.
Preview: The Illini will appear on the Big Ten Network on Wednesday night when they face No. 18 Michigan at Huff Hall at 7 p.m. Illinois also will play at home on Saturday night against Michigan State at 7 p.m.
Soccer (9-4-1, 3-2-1)
Review: On the road facing the Michigan State Spartans as part of a one-game weekend on Saturday afternoon, Illinois soccer earned a 1-0 victory in double overtime for the ninth win of the season for the Illini. Senior midfielder Marissa Mykines connected for the game-winning goal on a line-drive strike at the 102:36 mark, following a pass from sophomore midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo.
Each team's defense kept action away from the net throughout the majority of the regulation, with scoreless play a result. The Spartans earned two quality chances during the first half, with the play of junior goalkeeper Steph Panozzo in net keeping Michigan State (10-4-0 overall, 3-3-0 Big Ten) scoreless. Panozzo blocked a point-blank shot from Olivia Stander in the fifth minute, sending the ball wide of the net before using her fist to push a perfectly placed shot by Katelin Chaklos over the goal nine minutes later.
After a scoreless first overtime period, the Illini found the back of the net in the 103rd minute to end the contest, with Mykines earning her first game-winning goal of the season in the process. DiBernardo controlled play on the near sideline, crossing the ball into the center of the field as Mykines began a run toward goal. DiBernardo's pass bounced right to Mykines, who dribbled to her right and struck a shot into the left side of the goal netting, near the left post, to end the contest.
Preview: The Illini (9-4-1, 3-2-1) return to action at Illinois Soccer Stadium with a pair of weekend games, including SoccerFest 2011. Illinois hosts Minnesota on Friday, Oct. 14 at 7 p.m. CT before playing host to Wisconsin during SoccerFest on Sunday, Oct. 16 at 3 p.m. CT. SoccerFest 2011 will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network live as Illinois plays on TV for the second time on the year.
Review: Seniors Dennis Nevolo and Roy Kalmanovich reached the quarterfinals of the ITA All-American Championships last week in Tulsa, Okla., making Illinois the only team with two athletes among the final eight competitors in the first national championship of the 2011-12 collegiate season. Although they came up short in their quarterfinal matches, both Illini secured automatic bids to the USTA/ITA National Indoor Championships, Nov. 3-6 in Flushing, N.Y.
Kalmanovich, No. 71 in the preseason rankings, played seven matches in six days, taking down five nationally ranked opponents in the process, including No. 9 Jose Hernandez of North Carolina. The Framingham, Mass., native was the only athlete in the quarterfinals to earn entry to the tournament through the three-day qualifier. For his effort, Kalmanovich was named Big Ten Co-Athlete of the Week for the first time in his career.
No. 7 Nevolo, who automatically qualified for the tournament based on his ranking, had an incredible run as well, as the Gurnee, Ill., native took down his fourth and fifth nationally ranked opponents of the season.
Meanwhile, junior Stephen Hoh fell to the consolation draw after losing to the first of three ranked opponents that he faced. The Australia native bounced back to win his second match, downing No. 30 Enej Bonin (Denver) but lost the following day to No. 62 Andre Dome (Cal Poly). Hoh earned a wild card to the tournament when he captured the title at the USTA/ITA National Summer Championships on Aug. 16.
Preview: The Orange and Blue will return to action at the ITA Midwest Regionals, Oct. 13-16 in Columbus, Ohio.
Review: Junior Rachael White and senior Marisa Lambropoulos represented the Illini women's tennis team in the qualifying rounds of the ITA All-American Championships, Oct. 4-6, capturing a big doubles win in the consolation draw.
After a rocky start on day one of doubles play, Lambropoulos and White, No. 56 in the preseason rankings, rebounded on the final day of qualifying to take an 8-4 victory over Brown duo Jessica Harrow and Misia Krasowski in the consolation bracket.
In singles action, No. 67 White took on two nationally ranked opponents. The Deerfield, Ill., native came up short in both matches, losing to No. 44 Christina Ngo of Georgia Tech and No. 65 Sonja Molnar of Iowa.
Preview: The Illini will return to action at the ITA Midwest Regionals, Oct. 20-25 in Columbus, Ohio.
No. 16 Men's Golf
Review: The No. 16 Illini are currently competing in the Jack Nicklaus Invitational in Dublin, Ohio, from Oct. 10-11. After 36 holes, sophomore Thomas Pieters is in first place at -7 while senior Luke Guthrie is tied for fourth at -3. The Illini are tied for fifth in the loaded 12-team field at the par-72, 7,352-yard Muirfield Village Golf Club.
Review: The Illini are currently playing in the Lady Northern Invitational in French Lick, Ind., from Oct. 10-11. They are tied for eighth after 36 holes of the event.
Men's Cross Country
Review: The Fighting Illini men's cross country team was off last weekend.
Preview: The Illini will 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 Illinois women's cross country team was off last week.
Preview: The Illini will compete next on Oct. 14, traveling to Madison, Wis., for the Wisconsin adidas Invitational or Peoria, Ill., for the Bradley Classic.