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2011 Final Fall Olympic Sports Update

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Each week the Olympic Sports Update will provide a recap of all the Fighting Illini action from the previous week (Dec. 12-18). To close out the 2011 fall semester, the Illinois volleyball team wrapped up the best season in school history with a runner-up finish in the NCAA Tournament. The Illini bested USC in a thrilling five-set match during the National Semifinal before coming up short against UCLA in the National Final. The wrestling team topped UT-Chattanooga in its first home match while the women's basketball team fell to Texas Tech at the United Center before splitting its games in Las Vegas.



Volleyball (32-5, 16-4 Big Ten) - NCAA Runner-Up

Review: The list of accomplishments for the 2011 Illinois volleyball team include the program's first national semifinal appearance in 23 years, its first NCAA final appearance and a tie for the most wins for the Illini since 1992. Still the campaign came up one win short of the team's ultimate goal to hoist the national championship trophy for Illinois, who finish the season at 32-5.

UCLA (30-6) used a big block to slow down the Illinois attack at key moments in prevailing in the national championship match 25-23, 23-25, 26-24, 25-16 in front of over 13,000 fans at the Alamodome. The Bruins out-blocked the Illini 15-11.5 and out-dug the Orange and Blue, 87-76.

Three Illinois players were named to the All-Tournament Team. Senior Colleen Ward, who earned First Team All-America honors earlier in the week, joined third team All-American Michelle Bartsch and junior setter Annie Luhrsen on the seven-player team. Ward hit .298 with 101 kills and 62 digs in her six NCAA Tournament games, including 17 kills and 13 digs in the national championship match. Bartsch, meanwhile, had seven kills in the first set and seven more in the third set en route to a match-high 22 kills on the night. Luhrsen made some big plays both in setting with 47 assists and with her arm, where she rocketed six shots for kills. She was a big reason the Illini hit .279 for the tournament.

In the National Semifinal, the Fighting Illini defeated the seventh-seeded and the top team in the final AP poll USC in a thrilling five-set match (25-27, 25-18, 25-22, 18-25, 15-10). For just the second time in school history, two different players contributed 20-20 performances. First team All-American Colleen Ward paved the way with 27 kills in 71 swings, the second most by an Illini player in a postseason match. Ward added a career-best 22 digs while senior third team All-American Michelle Bartsch had 22 kills and 22 digs. That marked just the second time that an Illini tandem has posted 20-20 performance in match. Erin Borske and Mary (Coleman) Hambly did it against Ohio State on Sept. 22, 1995.

Women's Basketball (5-7)

Review: Sophomore Amber Moore led four Illini in double-figures, but it wasn't enough as Illinois upset bid against No. 15 Texas Tech fell short at the United Center.

Against Montana State, Illini junior Karisma Penn posted her fifth double-double of the season to lead the Orange and Blue to a 68-56 victory in the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic. Two other Illinois players finished in double figures, in freshman Ivory Crawford (15) and sophomore Kersten Magrum (10). Penn led the Illini with 16 points and 11 rebounds to go along with a season-high five assists, marking the third time Penn has led the Illini in both points and boards this season.

Against Dayton, Moore posted 17 points and finished 6-of-8 from the field, but it was not enough, as the Orange and Blue fell to the Flyers, 80-66, at the South Point Arena in Las Vegas.

Preview: The game marked the end of a nine-game road trip for the Illini, who are 4-6 away from Assembly Hall this year. The Orange and Blue will return home on Wednesday, Dec. 28 to take on Alabama A&M in Champaign at 7 p.m. CT.

Wrestling

Review: The Illinois wrestling team started their home schedule with a victory as they took down UT-Chattanooga 30-6 to improve to 7-1 on the season. Eight of the ten Illini won their matches, including Jesse Delgado, Daryl Thomas, Eric Terrazas, Guy Kirby, Jackson Morse, Jordan Blanton, Tony Dallago and Mario Gonzalez. Delgado recorded a technical fall and Dallago logged a pin in their respective matches to help boost the Orange and Blue over the Mocs at Huff Hall.

Preview: The Fighting Illini will take the next week off for the holidays before competing at the 49th annual Ken Kraft Midlands Championships on Dec. 29-30 at Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, Ill.

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