Birks, McMahon Named Preseason All-Big Ten
Aug 16, 2013
Park Ridge, Ill. - Illinois outside hitters Jocelynn Birks and Liz McMahon are among the 14 conference players named Preseason All-Big Ten, as voted on by the conference head coaches. Additionally, the Fighting Illini are predicted to finish in the top half of the standings of arguably the most difficult conference in the nation, coming in at No. 6 on the Big Ten preseason poll.
A 2012 All-Big Ten honoree, junior Liz McMahon earns a spot on the preseason all-conference squad for the second year in a row. The Liberty Township, Ohio, native finished second on the team in kills (400) and points (470.5) in 2012, along with coming in third in hitting percentage (.270), blocks (.97) and aces (16), while leading the Illini with 12 solo blocks. Standing at 6-foot, 6-inches, the outside hitter put together 19 double-digit kill matches, including registering the Illini's first 30-kill match since 2008 on Nov. 21 at Northwestern. She put up 11 block assists at then-No. 6 Texas on Sept. 14, tying for eighth-most all time at Illinois, to lead the Illini past the future NCAA Champion Longhorns, 3-2. She also developed her serving technique throughout the season, putting up nine aces in the final six matches of 2012, including three aces and no errors at No. 2 Penn State on Nov. 8.
Redshirt sophomore Jocelynn Birks had a breakout season in 2012, leading the Illini with 510 kills and 27 aces and ranking second in digs (262). She became the 10th member of the 500-kill club in the final match of the season, finishing her rookie campaign ranked ninth all-time in single-season kills and recording the second-best freshman season in Illini history. In 30 matches on the season, she tallied 20-or-more kills 11 times, ranking sixth all-time at Illinois, put up 13 double-doubles, and became the 17th Illini to record a 20-20 against No. 1 Penn State on Oct. 6. Birks set a new team record with five weekly conference honors and finished in the top five among freshmen nationally in both kills and points.
Penn State, who is predicted to win its 10th Big Ten title in 11 years, placed a conference-best five players on the Preseason All-Big Ten team; 2012 Player of the Year Ariel Scott, 2012 Setter of the Year Micha Hancock, 2012 Freshman of the Year Megan Courtney and 2012 All-Big Ten honorees Deja McClendon and Katie Slay.
Minnesota was picked to finish second and boasts a pair of preseason honorees in seniors Tori Dixon and Ashley Wittman. Michigan comes in at No. 3, and has three preseason all-conference players, Jennifer Cross, Lexi Dannemiller and Lexi Erwin. Nebraska, which finished in the top two in both of its seasons in the Big Ten, is estimated to come in fourth and does not have any individual honorees. Michigan State comes in at No. 5, with senior Lauren Wicinski earning a unanimous selection, and Illinois rounds out the top six. Northwestern's Stephanie Holthus is the only player to earn the preseason honor without her team being ranked in the top six.
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