After playing the third-most-difficult schedule in 2012, Coach Hambly once again planned a challenging slate for 2013.
June 28, 2013
Champaign, Ill. - The University of Illinois is proud to release the schedule for the 2013 fall season. The slate is chock full of difficult matchups and includes an exciting home tournament on Sept. 12-14, featuring three top opponents, none of whom have come to Huff Hall in at least 20 years. Additionally, the Illini will host Iowa at the State Farm Center on Sept. 27 in just the third Illinois volleyball match ever to played at the storied arena, prior to holding the 2013 NCAA Regionals there on Dec. 12-14.
The Fighting Illini will once again play one of the most difficult schedules in the country, in which 15 of its 21 opponents participated in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, including three of the Final Four teams. The Illini will face 12 teams that were ranked in the final AVCA poll, and will play five matches against teams who finished in the top five in the RPI. Of Illinois' 21 opponents, 19 finished in the RPI top 100, with conference opponents Indiana (107) and Iowa (136) being the remaining two. Additionally, the Fighting Illini will take on four 2012 conference champions, including Texas (Big 12), Florida State (ACC) and San Diego (West Coast).
Illini fans can get the first taste of the 2013 Orange and Blue on Saturday, August 24, when they host the annual Alumni Exhibition Match at Huff Hall at 7 p.m.
Illinois then heads to the West Coast for the Long Beach State Tournament, where, in addition to host LBSU, the Illini will take on 2012 ACC Champion No. 18 Florida State and Sweet 16 participant No. 20 Kentucky (rankings from 2012 final AVCA poll).
The Illini return to the Midwest on Sept. 7-8 for a tournament at No. 14 Iowa State, a Sweet 16 qualifier, where they will also face 2012 West Coast Conference Champion San Diego, who was ranked No. 19 in the final regular season poll.
The Illini Classic returns to Huff Hall on Sept. 12-14, when the Illini take on powerhouses No. 1 Texas, No. 9 Washington and Arizona State. The weekend opens on Thursday night, with a neutral match between the Sun Devils and Youngstown State. Illinois then faces ASU at 10 a.m. on Friday morning. Following a neutral match between Arizona State and Texas, Illini fans are encouraged to "Stuff Huff" at 7:30 p.m. for a match against Washington. Perhaps the greatest treat comes on Saturday night, when the Fighting Illini host the defending National Champion Texas Longhorns at 7 p.m. in their first trip to Champaign since 1993. Illinois was the last team to defeat Texas in 2012, before the Longhorns went on a 17-match winning streak to climb to No. 3 in the nation prior to the NCAA Tournament.
Illinois closes out the pre-conference slate on the East Coast, with a trip to perennial ACC frontrunners Duke and North Carolina.
The Illini hope to open Big Ten play in front of an extra-large crowd on Sept. 27, when Illinois hosts Iowa at the State Farm Center. It will mark the third Illini volleyball match ever to be played at the Center, with the most recent contest coming on Oct. 16, 2009, when Illinois defeated Minnesota in front of a school-record crowd of 7,632. The Orange and Blue then return to Huff on Saturday night to host No. 7 Nebraska, who qualified for the 2012 Elite Eight.
Illinois hits the road for four of the next five series, returning home for Penn State and Ohio State on October 18 and 20, respectively. The Illini are then home for three of the final four weekends, closing the regular season on Saturday, Nov. 30, against Minnesota.
This season, the Illini drew Minnesota and Wisconsin as the travel pair they only see once. Illinois plays at Wisconsin on Sunday, Oct. 27, and hosts Minnesota in the regular season finale. The Orange and Blue will take on the other nine Big Ten teams twice, once at home and once on the road.
The NCAA Tournament begins on Dec. 6-7, with the first and second rounds taking place on the campuses of each of the top 16 seeds. On Dec. 12-14, Illinois will then have the honor of hosting one of four NCAA Regionals, to take place at the State Farm Center. Illinois joins Nebraska, USC and Kentucky as the four institutions selected to host.
This is the fourth time that the Illini will host a regional, but the first since the NCAA began setting pre-determined regional sites. Illinois hosted regionals at Kenney Gym in 1987 and 1988, which resulted in the Illini's back-to-back Final Four berths. The Illini hosted the 1992 regional at Huff Hull, which to this day ranks as the Illini's highest-attended season in program history, and the 52,666 fans who watched the Illini play that fall set a then-NCAA attendance record. The regional match against Stanford on Dec. 11, 1992, was the highest-attended match ever at Huff Hall (4,316), topped only by Illinois' defeat of Minnesota on Oct. 16, 2009, at the State Farm Center (7,632).
The University of Washington will host the 2013 National Championship on Dec. 19 and 21, to be held at Key Arena in Seattle.
For the complete 2013 schedule, click here.