Women's Volleyball
Illinois Volleyball Announces 2014 Schedule

Coach Hambly has high expectations for his veteran team in 2014.
Coach Hambly has high expectations for his veteran team in 2014.

March 24, 2014

Champaign, Ill. – Illinois volleyball is pleased to announce the 2014 schedule, including a breakdown of the new Big Ten format. The Illini will play in four nonconference tournaments, opening the season at home on the brand new floor at Huff Hall on Aug. 29. Conference play begins on Sept. 26, when the Illini host the newest members of the Big Ten Conference.

The Illini kick off the 2014 season at home by hosting Long Beach State, Southern Illinois and North Carolina in the 31st-Annual Illini Classic the weekend of Aug. 29-30. The following weekend, Illinois heads to the West Coast for the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge, where the Illini and Penn State will square off against Stanford and UCLA with conference bragging rights on the line. Stanford reached the Elite Eight in 2013 and finished the year ranked No. 5 in the AVCA Poll and #6 in the final RPI.

“As usual, it’s a tough schedule that we put together,” said Head Coach Kevin Hambly. “Two of the teams that we’re playing the first weekend we lost to last year at their home tournaments, so they’re both coming back. North Carolina returns everybody; Long Beach State’s going to be good. We added SIU, who almost made the tournament last year and I think they’re going to have a great year as well, so that makes for a great home tournament. It’s the first weekend, so we’ll have to be pretty quick about figuring out what we’re all about, but I’m excited for that challenge for the team.

“Then we're going to go out to Stanford, which is exciting, and play Stanford and UCLA in the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge that we’re doing with Penn State. I think everyone’s going to be excited about it, and it will be a good test to see where we’re at.”

The Orange and Blue return to the Midwest on Sept. 12-13 for the Blue Raider Bash, hosted by Middle Tennessee State and featuring Washington State and Virginia Tech. Illinois finishes out nonconference play with a trip to Omaha to face Colorado, South Dakota and tournament-host Creighton. Creighton and Colorado both reached the NCAA Second Round in 2013 and received votes in the final AVCA Poll. The Bluejays just missed out on earning a seed for last season’s tournament, ranking #18 in the final RPI.

“Middle Tennessee State’s been a perennial power in their conference and has been a team that’s been tough to beat, especially at home,” said Hambly. “We’ll also play two other BCS schools, and whenever you play a BCS school, they’re going to be tough.

“And then we go out to Creighton, who’s a great team. They almost won their conference last year; came in second to Marquette, who we saw was a great team. And then we have Colorado, who’s returning everybody, and they’re going to make some waves, I think, in the Pac-12.”

With the addition of Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten Conference, the league has completely reworked the conference schedule, beginning in 2014. The Big Ten season will remain a 20-match schedule, but now each team will play just seven opponents twice, while facing the remaining six teams once during the year. The schedule is on a four-year rotation, so every team will play each other team the same total number of times over a four-year span, with the exception of its travel partner.

Each team will play its travel partner twice every year, facing them at home and away in the same week. In 2014, the Illini will face Northwestern twice the week of Nov. 5. The remaining 12 opponents have been split into two randomly-assigned groups of six. The Illini will play one group twice, both home and away, in 2014 and 2015, and will face the other half of the conference just once each year. For the teams Illinois plays once, three of those matches will be at home and the other three will be away. In 2015, the locations will swap for the “one-plays.” In 2016 and 2017, the groups will switch, so the teams Illinois has played twice, the Illini will face just once, and vice versa. After a four-year cycle, the Illini will have faced every team (except for Northwestern) a total of six times, three at home and three on the road.

The general schedule will remain the same, with every team having two matches per week over 10 weeks. For the first seven weeks of the season, travel pairs remain intact. However, since the two groups are randomly assigned and are not based on travel pairs, the final three weeks of the season will follow a mainly Wednesday-Saturday schedule, where each team plays the remainder of its slate against unmatched pairs.

As in past years, no team will have more than four consecutive home or away matches. Additionally, if a team is selected to play a Wednesday night match on the Big Ten Network, its weekend opponent will also have its first match of the week moved to Wednesday.

This fall, Illinois will face Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Rutgers and Wisconsin twice. The Illini will host Maryland, Minnesota and Purdue, and will only see Iowa, Michigan State and Penn State on the road.

“Our conference is going to be tough as always,” said Hambly. “The scheduling will be interesting. We have seven weeks that we play Wednesday-Saturday, which will be new for us; we seem to be moving in that direction as a league, and we’re going to have to learn how to adjust to that.

“Adding Rutgers and Maryland, it will be interesting to see what that means for our league. The one thing we know is that the teams that we’re playing are going to be good and make for great competition. I think this year it will be a real Big Ten battle to see who wins the conference. There’s been a lot of turnover in the conference, but there are some teams that are bringing back a lot, and we happen to be one of those teams, so I hope that bodes well for us.”

The Illini open Big Ten play with a four-match homestand, kicking off with the newest members of the conference. The Orange and Blue face Maryland in the Big Ten opener on Friday, Sept. 26, followed by Rutgers on Sept. 27. The homestand continues with a visit by Minnesota on Wednesday, Oct. 1, and concludes by hosting 2013 NCAA Runner-Up Wisconsin on Saturday, Oct. 4.

Illinois then hits the road for a difficult stretch, heading to Ohio State, Penn State, Iowa and Nebraska on consecutive Wednesday-Saturdays. The Illini return home for Indiana and Purdue on Oct. 24-25, then travel to Michigan State and Michigan on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, followed by Northwestern on Nov. 5. Illinois hosts the Wildcats on Saturday, Nov. 8, and Ohio State on Wednesday, Nov. 12.

Another three-match road stretch includes the Illini’s first-ever trip to Rutgers on Saturday, Nov. 15, followed by a visit to Madison to play Wisconsin on Wednesday, Nov. 19. The Illini play their final road match at Indiana on Saturday, Nov. 22, before hosting Nebraska and Michigan to close out the regular season.

The Fighting Illini will once again face a very difficult slate in 2014, as the Big Ten returns from arguably its strongest season ever with more high expectations for 2014. The Illini also face four Pac-12 opponents, the only conference to send more teams than the Big Ten to the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Illinois will face eight teams that were ranked in the final AVCA Poll, along with three additional teams that received votes. Illinois has 11 NCAA Tournament participants on its 2014 schedule, all-but-one of which won its first-round match. The Illini will face seven Sweet 16 qualifiers, five of the Elite Eight, and will play three matches, two on the road, against the pair that reached the title match: Wisconsin and Penn State.

The NCAA Tournament will begin on Dec. 5, with the First and Second Rounds to be held on the campuses of the top 16 overall seeds. The NCAA Regionals will take place on Dec. 12-13 at four pre-selected sites: Iowa State, Louisville, Washington and Minnesota. The NCAA Championship will be held at Chesapeake Energy Arena, home of the Oklahoma City Thunder, on Dec. 18 and 20, co-hosted by the Big 12 Conference and the Oklahoma City All Sports Association.

2014 Nonconference Tournaments
Aug. 29-31 – Illini Classic – Huff Hall – Southern Illinois, North Carolina, Long Beach State
Sept. 5-7 – Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge – Palo Alto, Calif. – Stanford, UCLA
Sept. 12-14 – Blue Raider Bash – Murfreesboro, Tenn. – Middle Tennessee, Washington State, Virginia Tech
Sept. 19-21 – Creighton Tournament – Omaha, Neb. - Creighton, Colorado, South Dakota

2014 Big Ten Schedule
Friday, Sept. 26 – Maryland
Saturday, Sept. 27 – Rutgers
Wednesday, Oct. 1 – Minnesota
Saturday, Oct. 4 – Wisconsin
Wednesday, Oct. 8 – at Ohio State
Saturday, Oct. 11 – at Penn State
Wednesday, Oct. 15 – at Iowa
Saturday, Oct. 18 – at Nebraska
Friday, Oct. 24 – Indiana
Saturday, Oct. 25 – Purdue
Friday, Oct. 31 – at Michigan State
Saturday, Nov. 1 – at Michigan
Wednesday, Nov. 5 – at Northwestern
Saturday, Nov. 8 – Northwestern
Wednesday, Nov. 12 – Ohio State
Saturday, Nov. 15 – at Rutgers
Wednesday, Nov. 19 – at Wisconsin
Saturday, Nov. 22 – at Indiana
Wednesday, Nov. 26 – Nebraska
Saturday, Nov. 29 – Michigan

*All dates and opponents are subject to change