Review: Illinois' 20-match win streak to start the season ended Saturday night with a four-set 24-26, 25-18, 25-19, 25-11 loss at No. 4 Nebraska before a crowd of 4,198. Nebraska jumped to leads in all four sets, and aside from the first, the Illini were unable to come back. Nebraska hit .361 for the match, including a dominating .696 in the fourth set to improve to 17-1 overall and 10-0 in the Big Ten. Illinois falls to 20-1 overall and 9-1 in the conference.
Senior All-American outside hitters Michelle Bartsch and Colleen Ward did their best to rally the Illini. Bartsch, who had 22 kills and nine digs while hitting .293 on the night, was especially potent in the first set with seven kills in 11 swings. Ward, meanwhile, hit .308 with 17 kills and 10 digs.
Illinois began the week a 25-19, 25-23, 25-19 victory over Northwestern. Ward posted just the third 20-20 performance by an Illinois player in a three-set match. She had 20 kills and 20 digs while hitting .283 as Illinois fought off rallies in each set by the Wildcats. The Wildcats out-blocked the Illini 12-10.5, but Illinois came through with the block when it needed to as Erin Johnson and Anna Dorn had six blocks apiece for the Illini. The match was a defensive battle with Illinois out-digging the Wildcats, 70-55. Jennifer Beltran (17 digs), Michelle Bartsch (16 digs) and Annie Luhrsen (10 digs) backed up Ward's great defensive effort.
Preview: Illinois begins the second half of the Big Ten season with home matches against Wisconsin on Friday and Minnesota on Saturday. Friday's match is Dig Pink for breast cancer awareness. Fans who wear pink will get in free.
Soccer (13-4-1, 7-2-1)
Review: Illinois downed a pair of Big Ten foes to secure a second place finish in the conference regardless of how the final weekend plays out, improving its 2011 season record to 13-4-1 overall and 7-2-1 in Big Ten play. To earn second in the Big Ten, Illinois continued its winning streak by downing Northwestern, 3-0, and Nebraska, 3-1, to stretch the current string of victories to seven consecutive contests, tying the program-best mark set in 2004.
The Orange and Blue took a 1-0 lead over the Wildcats (2-14-1, 1-8-1) on the strength of senior Marissa Mykines' attempt at the 26:06 mark, Illinois' first shot of the game. Mykines controlled possession outside the Northwestern box and fired a looping strike into the top-left of the goal netting, over the outstretched arms of Wildcats keeper Sam Hatfield. Sophomore Vanessa DiBernardo doubled the Illinois lead in the 66th minute on a shot from inside the six-yard box. Junior Niki Read found senior Julie Ewing racing down the sideline uncontested, with Ewing taking the play to goal before passing across the front of the net to DiBernardo. The Naperville, Ill., native redirected the play with one touch, sending the ball into the right side of the net for her 14th goal of the season.
After recording a total of three tallies over the previous three games, all 1-0 victories, the Illini offense produced as it had earlier in the season, adding a third goal to turn the contest into a rout at the 72:40 mark. Read owned possession near the Northwestern endline and fired a cross to the right post, where junior Shayla Mutz drove a shot into the lower-right corner for the Lockport Township High School graduate's third goal of the season.
Against Nebraska (7-9-1, 4-6-0), Mykines again gave the Illini a one-goal lead as the Spokane, Wash., native did against Northwestern in the previous contest. During the 29th minute, Mutz found Mykines with a throw in 30 yards away from the net. Mykines dribbled across the top of the goalie box, 25 yards up-field from the endline, and fired a shot into the top-left corner of the goal for her seventh tally of the season. Senior Jenna Carosio doubled the Orange and Blue lead 11 minutes later, recording her second goal of the season in the process. Nebraska was called for a foul five yards outside the top of its 18-yard box, with a free kick awarded to the Illini as a result of the play. Carosio stepped up and drilled a shot through a wall of Cornhuskers defenders and past the diving save attempt by Nebraska goalie Emma Stevens for the two-goal advantage.
Morgan Marlborough scored for Nebraska 3:22 into the second half, cutting the Illinois lead to 2-1, while ending the Illini shutout streak at 533:36 consecutive minutes - only 77:32 shy of breaking the program record. After scoreless play for the majority of the remaining time, DiBernardo re-established Illinois' two-goal advantage with 3:21 left in the contest. Mutz dribbled down the left sideline and crossed the ball into the box to a waiting DiBernardo, who placed home her 15th goal of the season. DiBernardo's 15 goals and 35 points ties the Naperville, Ill., native with Emily Brown for the second-most goals and points in a single year in Illinois history, with Brown's totals coming in 22 contests during the 2000 slate.
Preview: Illinois concludes the regular season with "Senior Night" against Michigan (9-7-2, 4-5-1) on Oct. 29 at 6 p.m. at Illinois Soccer and Track Stadium. Admission and parking at all home soccer contests is free.
Men's Cross Country
Review: The Fighting Illini men's cross-country team fielded two runners in the Illini Open, with Mark Donohue finishing first for the Illini and third overall with an 8K time of 25:49. In his first race of the season, senior Graham Farnsworth, clocked a personal best 5K time of 26:12, beating his previous mark by five seconds. Since the Illini ran only two runners this year, they were unable to record a team score.
Preview: The Illini will be back at home on Sunday as they host the Big Ten Championships at the UI Arboretum with the 8K-race beginning at 10:45 a.m. CT.
Women's Cross Country
Review: Junior Meagan Hynes and sophomore Meghan Murphy led Illinois at the fourth annual Illini Open at the UI Arboretum. Four of the five runners placed in the top 20, with two inside the top 11. Illinois came in third place with 65 points.
Preview: The Illini will host the Big Ten Championships on Sunday, Oct. 30 at the UI Arboretum with the 6K-race beginning at 11:45 a.m. CT.
Review: Freshmen Tim Kopinski and Ross Guignon teamed up to go 3-0 in doubles action over the weekend, as the Illini newcomers represented the Orange and Blue at the Wildcat Invitational in Evanston, Ill. Kopinski went a perfect 3-0 in singles play throughout the three-day tournament, while Guignon finished with a 2-1 mark.
Kopinski advanced to the finals in both singles and doubles play, but the final-round matches were not played.
Preview: The Illini will be back in action at the Big Ten Indoor Championships, Oct. 28-31 in Iowa City, Iowa.
Review: Junior Rachael White and freshman Melissa Kopinski played their way to the doubles semifinals at the USTA/ITA Midwest Regional in Columbus, Ohio, last weekend, as the Illini duo cruised through four matches before falling to eventual champion Notre Dame's Kristy Frilling and Shannon Matthews, the fifth-ranked tandem in the nation.
Seniors Amy Allin and Marisa Lambropoulos each reached the singles round of 16 but ended their tournament run with losses to nationally ranked opponents. Junior Breanne Smutko had a solid run as well, as the Alpharetta, Ga., native played her way through the qualifying rounds to advance to the main singles draw before falling in round two.
Meanwhile, sophomore Misia Kedzierski captured the title match of her flight at the Second Chance Regional at Northern Illinois to cap off a 3-0 weekend in her first tournament of the fall season.
Overall, the Illini were 11-9 in singles play and 7-4 in doubles action over the weekend.
Preview: The Orange and Blue will return to action in two weeks to wrap up the fall season at the Purdue Invitational, Nov. 4-6 in West Lafayette, Ind.
Review: The Illinois women's golf team placed third in the 13-team field at the Hoosier Fall Invitational, shooting a 54-hole score of 918 (+54) following rounds of 314, 293 and 311. The Orange and Blue finished five strokes behind second-place Notre Dame (913) and six strokes behind team champion Eastern Michigan (912). Individually, the Illini placed three golfers in the top 20, led by senior Hailey Koschmann in a tie for sixth. Senior Samantha Sloan tied for 11th while senior Katelin Dilger tied for 18th.
Preview: The Illini will play in their final fall tournament next week when they travel to Buies Creek, N.C., for the Fighting Camel Fall Classic on Oct. 31- Nov. 1.
Swimming and Diving
Review: The Fighting Illini swimming and diving team dropped its first meet of the season to Northwestern, 199-101, on Friday at the ARC Pool. The Illini captured two first-place finishes during the team's fourth annual Splash Bash event.
The Illini were led by freshman Alison Meng, who began her career as an Illini by finishing first in the 100 back (58.04) and second in the 100 fly (57.82), and sophomore Jessica Holz, who placed first in the 200 back (2:03.58) and third in the 100 back (59.51). Sophomore Alyssa Toland swam a career-best 5:07.69 for a third-place finish in the 500 free.
On the boards, Illini senior Britni Fisher captured second place in both the one-meter (278.69) and three-meter (292.97) dives.
Preview: The swimmers and divers will return to action this weekend to take on the Kansas Jayhawks on Oct. 29 in Lawrence, Kan.
No. 16 Men's Golf
Review: Illinois completed its fall schedule and will be back in tournament action next year beginning with the Tinervin Cup in Coral Springs, Fla., on Jan. 28, 2012.