Beth Vrdsky earned a scholarship for the 2005 season
Aug. 24, 2005
Champaign, Ill. -
Illinois AT A GLANCE:
Illinois kicks off 32nd year: The Illinois volleyball team begins its 32nd year. The Illini have 16 NCAA appearances in the past 20 seasons, nine trips to the Sweet 16 and two Final Four Appearances. The Illini have made the tourney three of the past four seasons and have an overall 683-405-7 record.
Vrdsky receives scholarship: Beth Vrdsky, a member of the Illinois ROTC, for the past two seasons, has earned a scholarship for her last two seasons. Vrdsky will likely serve as the Illini's libero this year.
New faces to watch: With the graduation of four seniors, Illinois will look to several newcomers to provide significant contribution. Freshman Lizzie Bazzetta split time at setter with sophomore Stephanie Obermeier at last Saturday's scrimmage. Bazzetta had a match-high 19 assists and three digs in playing one game vs. the Alumni. Kayani Turner, who missed last season, was impressive at outside hitter with seven kills and a .357 hitting percentage. Sophomore Vicki Brown, who promises to be a fan favorite again this year, had some thundering kills vs. the Alumni and finished with five kills.
VanMeter named Pre-Season All-Big Ten: VanMeter, an Honorable Mention All-Conference selection a year ago, is also a two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree. She earned all-tournament honors at all three regular season tournaments the Illini participated in a year ago, including earning MVP honors at the 2004 State Farm Illini Classic and the Hurricane Frances Classic at Miami (Ohio). VanMeter had the game-winning kill in the Illini's upset of No. 1 USC in the Illini Classic title game. She ranks seventh in Illinois history with 12 20+ kills matches and was fourth in the Big Ten in kills per game (4.35) in 2004. VanMeter has 990 kills for her career.
Of the 12 players on the Pre-season All-Big Ten team, VanMeter is one of only four to be named to the team unanimously, joining Kelly Bowman and Paula Gentil of Minnesota and Sam Tortorello from Penn State.
Illinois picked fifth in the Big Ten: Illinois is picked fifth in the conference behind four conference teams ranked in the top 12 in the nation. Defending conference champion Penn State, national runner-up Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Ohio State garnered the first four positions ahead of Illinois and Purdue, who tied with for fifth. Michigan is predicted seventh followed by Northwestern, Michigan State, Iowa, and Indiana.
VanMeter had big match vs. ISU last year: Rachel VanMeter set a career mark by hitting .607 vs. Illinois St. last season. VanMeter posted a match-high 20 kills as the Illini hit .404 as a team.
Illinois in openers: Illinois is 7-2 in openers under Don Hardin. Last year Illinois opened the season with a 30-21, 30-19, 30-20 victory over Illinois State at Huff Hall last season.
Roster update: Rasa Virsilaite, who suffered from a heart murmur this summer, has been cleared to play Friday. Virsilaite played back row in the Alumni match.
Freshman Katie Luhrsen, a transfer from Maryland, has joined the team as a walk-on.
Sophomore Jen Hynds has still not been cleared to play due to injury.
Freshman Jana Wojcik is expected to start practicing this week.
TV update: The Northwestern at Illinois match will be broadcast on Comcast SportsNet Chicago. The Minnesota at Illinois match will be shown on ESPN2
NOTES ON THE SCHEDULE
Illinois will play 13 of its 30 matches vs. NCAA qualifiers.
Illinois hosts the 22nd Annual State Farm Illini Classic Sept. 16-17 at Huff Hall. The Illini will try to win their third title in a row and 16th overall in a field that includes Rice, who was 25-4 year ago before being knocked out of the NCAA Tournament by Michigan. In-state teams UIC and Eastern Illinois round out the field. The Panthers played in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Huff Hall in 2002.
On Sept. 2-3, the Illini compete at the Northern Illinois University Tournament, which also includes Austin Peay, Indiana State and UW-Green Bay.
NCAA qualifiers Loyola and Louisville also highlight the schedule. The Illini host Loyola in the home opener on Sept. 7. Louisville, Rutgers, and Long Beach State join at Illinois at the UNLV Tournament Sept. 9-10. Illinois and Louisville have met the past two years in the NCAA Tournament with Illinois prevailing in the second round at Huff Hall in 2003 and the Cardinals downing the Illini, 3-1, in the first round at Columbia, Mo., a year ago.
Illinois opens and closes the Big Ten season on the road. The toughest trip at Penn State and Ohio State kicks off the conference portion of the schedule Sept. 24-25. The regular season ends Nov. 25-26 at Minnesota and Iowa.
The NCAA Tournament starts the first weekend in December with the Regionals the following week. The four Regional sites this year are Omaha, Neb., State College, Pa., Stanford, Calif., and College Station Texas. The 2005 Final Four is Dec. 15, 17 at the San Antonio's Alamo Dome.
MOVING UP THE CHARTS
Rachel VanMeter is just 10 kills shy of 1,000 for her career. Last season she posted 483 kills, the seventh most in Illinois history. She has a chance to move up the kills list with a similar season in 2005. Currently VanMeter needs 191 kills to reach the top ten. A season of 500 kills would move her into the top five. Bridget Boyle is currently fifth with 1,484.
VanMeter is in a similar situation in attack attempts where her 2,676 career attempts are just 54 shy of Tina Rogers for tenth all-time. Last year, VanMeter took 1,281 swings, fourth most in a season in Illinois history. If she duplicates that effort, she would move into third on the career attack list.
HISTORY VS. ILLINOIS ST.
Illinois State leads the all-time series, 26-19, but Illinois has dominated the rivalry of late. Since 1985, the Illini have won 13 of 14 meetings with seven of the victories being 3-0 shutouts. The only Redbird victory in that stretch was a 3-1 victory in 1996.
With the addition of Lizzie Bazzetta to the squad this year, the family continues a tradition at Illinois. Her sister, Kathleen, was a four-year regular at defensive specialist following aunts Kathleen and Eileen Garland, who played volleyball for the Illini in the 1970s. Her parents, Bob and Mary Jean Bazzetta and several family members also attended Illinois.
The NCAA allowed teams to start the season a week early this year. The Illinois State match on Aug. 26 marks the earliest Illinois has ever started a season. In fact the Illini have only played 15 matches in school history in the month of August, posting a 12-3 record in those matches.