Volleyball Opens 2013 at Long Beach State Mizuno Invitational
ILLINOIS VS. THE FIELD
The Fighting Illini are 1-3 all-time against Florida State, most recently dropping a 3-0 contest to the Seminoles on Sept. 4, 2009, at the New Mexico State Tournament. The Illini's sole victory in the series came on Sept. 6, 1986, when the Illini won 3-0 at the Florida Invitational.
Illinois is also 1-3 all-time against Long Beach State. The Illini defeated then-No. 10 LBSU, 3-2, on Oct. 29, 1988, but fell 2-0 at the 1977 AIAW National Tournament and to the top-ranked 49ers 3-0 in the 1998 NCAA Regional Semifinal.
The Illini are 2-3 against Kentucky, having won their most recent matchup, 3-0, on Oct. 28, 1988, against the No. 9 Wildcats, just one day before downing LBSU at the Mid-America Classic. Illinois was ranked No. 5 in the nation at the time and would go on to reach the NCAA National Semifinals.
ILLINOIS IN LONG BEACH
The Fighting Illini have visited Long Beach twice in the history of the program; Illinois lost to eventual NCAA champion No. 1 LBSU in the 1998 NCAA Regional Semifinal, then opened the 1999 season right where they left off at the Long Beach State Tournament. Despite a No. 14 preseason ranking, the Orange and Blue lost to No. 11 UC-Santa Barbara and North Carolina, rendering an 0-3 all-time record in Long Beach, Calif.
ILLINOIS HAS FORMIDABLE SCHEDULE
• Illinois has another difficult schedule ahead. Based on the AVCA Preseason Poll, the Illini will face six of the top 10 teams, in No. 1 Texas, No. 2 Penn State, No. 5 Washington, No. 6 Minnesota, No. 7 Michigan and No. 10 Nebraska. The Illini will meet the five teams ranked 14-18 (Michigan State, Iowa State, Purdue, Kentucky and Florida State), along with No. 23 Ohio State. Additionally, San Diego, North Carolina, Long Beach State and Wisconsin are receiving votes.
• The Orange and Blue face six top-10 teams, 12 ranked teams, and 16 opponents who received votes, with 22 of their 30 matches coming against teams with votes.
• Huff Hall will be the site of many great competitions, as all six top-10 opponents will come to Champaign.
• According to the final 2012 RPI, Illinois will face four of the top six (#2 Texas, #3 Penn State, #5 Nebraska, #6 Minnesota), with 12 opponents in the top 25. The lowest non-conference opponent on the schedule is #80 Duke, with Big Ten teams Indiana (107) and Iowa (136) sitting just outside the top 100.
• 15 of Illinois' 21 opponents participated in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, including three of the Final Four teams (Texas, Penn State, Michigan).
• The Fighting Illini will take on four 2012 conference champions, including Texas (Big 12), Florida State (ACC) and San Diego (West Coast).
BIRKS, McMAHON EARN PRESEASON ALL-BIG TEN
Outside hitters Jocelynn Birks and Liz McMahon were among 14 conference players elected by the head coaches as Preseason All-Big Ten honorees. It is the second-straight preseason selection for junior McMahon, who was also 2012 All-Big Ten, while Birks, in her first eligible year, is coming off 2012 All-Big Ten Honorable Mention and All-Freshman honors.
2012 AT A GLANCE
The Illini had a difficult season in 2012, facing one of the toughest schedules in the nation, with 15 matches against ranked opponents, seven against teams who finished in the top 10 in the RPI, and five against squads that advanced to the Final Four. Fielding a young squad of four underclassmen starters and having just four upperclassmen regularly see court time, the Illini had a lot to figure out in a short amount of time.
Highlights included a 3-2 victory at then-No. 6 Texas, the future NCAA Champion, on Sept. 14, en route to a sweep of the Time Warner Cable Texas Invitational. The Illini blanked then-No. 15 Iowa State in the home opener on Aug. 31 in front of the best opening-night crowd in Illinois history (3,770), and finished the year with the second-best average attendance in Illinois history (behind 1992), drawing 2,809 fans per home match.
The Illini hit a skid early in Big Ten play, finding themselves on a 4-match losing streak and down 0-2 at Michigan State, when freshman setter Alexis Viliunas led the Illini all the way back to stun the Spartans in five. The Orange and Blue closed out the home season in style on Senior Night, taking down soon-to-be Final Four contender Michigan, 3-1, behind 25 kills by Jocelynn Birks and a .571 clip with five kills from Jessica Jendryk, making her first career start. Despite the up and down season, the Illini finished the year on a high note, winning the final three matches of the year, including a 30-kill performance by Liz McMahon at Northwestern and a 3-0 sweep of the Hawkeyes.
BELTRAN MOVING UP DIGS CHARTS
In her first two seasons at Illinois, Jennifer Beltran recorded the top two single-season digs performances in school history. She followed with a 500-dig season in 2012, good for sixth all time. Entering 2012, Beltran ranked fifth all time in career digs, with 1,194. On Sept. 15, Beltran passed Lauren Harks `04 into fourth all time, when she recorded her first career double-double (11a, 18d) against Cincinnati. On Sept. 28, she vaulted over Mary Coleman '98 into third place, registering 12 digs at Indiana. One week later, on Oct. 5, Beltran passed Tracey Marshall '99 to move into second place, tabbing 25 digs against Ohio State. Beltran finished her third season with 1,694 career digs. The libero, who has had at least 500 digs in each of her first three seasons, needs 227 digs as a senior to pass Ashley Edinger '09 and become the Illini's all-time career digs leader.
Additionally, Beltran is the active leader in the Big Ten in career digs, and sits in 15th all time in the conference.
2012 IS SECOND MOST WELL-ATTENDED SEASON
• Illinois played Iowa State on Aug. 31 in front of the best opening night crowd in school history, where 3,770 fans filled Huff Hall. The Illini drew 3,269 the following afternoon. Those were the 10th- and 16th-best crowds, respectively, of all-time at Huff Hall.
• The Illini drew a total of 33,713 fans over 12 home matches in 2012, for an average of 2,809 per match, which is second only to the 1992 season, when the Illini set a then-NCAA record for season attendance. The Orange and Blue hosted the NCAA Regional that season, which featured three of the all-time top-five crowds at Huff.
• Illinois played in front of over 2,000 fans in 21 of the 30 matches in 2012, including all 12 home matches. The Illini dazzled 3,000+ fans on seven occasions, five at home, and played in front of a crowd of 5,121 at Minnesota on Oct. 28.
• The Illini ranked ninth in the nation in home attendance, with an average of 2,809 fans per match.
• Six of the top 10 teams attendance-wise were members of the Big Ten in Nebraska (2), Minnesota (3), Penn State (4), Wisconsin (5), Purdue (8) and Illinois (9).
• Illinois went 5-7 at home in 2012, but is 62-13 in front of the home crowd since the start of 2008. 11 of the 13 losses came to teams in the top 25, including three to No. 1 Penn State.
ILLINOIS TO HOST 2013 NCAA REGIONAL
The NCAA has selected Illinois to be one of four Regional hosts for this season's NCAA Tournament. Illinois will host three matches on Dec. 13-14 at the State Farm Center. All-session tickets are now available by calling the Illinois Ticket Office at 1-866-ILLINI-1. Single session tickets will go on sale the week of the event after teams have qualified for the regional.
The Fighting Illini open the home season on Sept. 12-14 with the annual Illini Classic. The Illinois home opener featuring Arizona State at 10 a.m. on Sept. 13 is Elementary School Field Trip day. That evening, the Illini will host the eighth-annual Stuff Huff at 7:30 p.m. against nationally-ranked Washington, before closing the weekend with a visit by the defending national champion Texas Longhorns.
Friday, Sept. 27, is volleyball's Dad's Day match, to be held at the State Farm Center. The Illini look to break their all-time attendance record of 7,632.
When Illinois hosts Penn State on Oct. 18, it will be Costume & Mascot Night. Wear a costume to the match and interact with mascots from local businesses and teams.
Sunday, Oct. 20 features Workout a Cure. Wear pink to the Ohio State match for breast cancer awareness and work out with Illinois student-athletes through pre-match mini-clinics.
Wednesday, Nov. 6 is Ladies Night. Enjoy free manicures, massages and self-defense training prior to the match. It is also Illinois Faculty and Staff Night, where your I-Card gets you a $2 ticket to the Michigan match.
Military Appreciation and Girl Scout Night coincide on Saturday, Nov. 9. Following the match with Michigan State is the annual lock-in, where girls eighth grade and below can spend the night on campus and have breakfast with the team.
When Illinois takes on Purdue on Nov. 16, the night is full of promotions. It is Team Night, Camper Reunion and Kid's Club Night. Pre-registration is required for free admission.
The Illini close the season with Senior Night on Saturday, Nov. 30 against Minnesota.
Additionally, on home football weekends, volleyball participates in football ticket stub redemption, giving free admission to volleyball with your ticket stub. These matches are Sept. 28, Oct. 20, Nov. 16 and Nov. 30.