Illinois picked second in the Big Ten
Aug. 12, 2010
Park Ridge, Ill. - Illinois, who finished second in the Big Ten and reached the Sweet 16 in 2009, is picked to finish second again by the conference coaches.
Three-time defending national champion Penn State, who rides a 65-match Big Ten winning streak and an NCAA record 102-match overall win streak into the season, is the coaches' pick to win the league. The Nittany Lions open the Big Ten season at Illinois on Sept. 24. Final Four qualifier Minnesota is picked third followed by Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State.
Illinois boasts a league best four players on the Preseason All-Big Ten team - DeBruler, who was a unanimous selection, senior middle blocker Johannah Bangert, senior setter Hillary Haen and junior outside hitter Michelle Bartsch. All four were All-Americans a year ago.
DeBruler enters the season just 93 kills shy of Illinois' all-time career kills record and last year earned All-America honors for the second time after being named a second-team All-American in 2008. She ranked 15th in the nation in kills and was named MVP of two early season tournaments in 2009. The Academic All-Big Ten selection also ranked 14th in the nation in points in 2009.
Bangert is also on the verge of breaking a career school record, this one in blocks. Her 492 career blocks are just 70 shy of the Illinois career mark held by Mary Eggers. Bangert holds the second and third best single-season marks by an Illini with 202 and 179 in 2008 and 2009, respectively, while sharing the single-match block assist record of 13 on a pair of occasions last season. The All-Big Ten and honorable mention All-America selection led the nation in blocks for the second-straight year in 2009.
Haen begins her third season as Illinois' starting setter after having earned first-team All-Big Ten, honorable mention all-region and honorable mention All-America honors in 2009. She also was named Academic All-Big Ten and ranked 16th in the nation in assists. Haen was named to two all-tournament teams - the State Farm Illini Classic and the Active Ankle Challenge - in 2009.
Bartsch emerged as a force as both a hitter and passer in 2009, earning honorable mention All-Big Ten and honorable mention All-America accolades. She was named to the all-tournament team at the Bluejay Invitational and led Illinois with 15 kills in the NCAA first round victory over IPFW. Bartsch was also named to the all-tournament team at the State Farm Illini Classic and totaled 344 kills and 253 digs for the season.
Illinois opens its season on Friday, Aug. 27 by hosting the State Farm Illini Classic. The team will tune-up for the season with its annual Alumni Event on Saturday, Aug. 21.
Bonilla featured in Sports Illustrated