Rasa Virsilaite and the Illini play four matches in DeKalb, Ill. this weekend.
Aug. 30, 2005
Champaign, Ill. -
Comfort Inn & Suites Invitational
Northern Illinois U., DeKalb, Ill.
Radio: Illini Sports Network
(Dave Loane & Mike Koon, & Steve Layman)
The Heater on fire vs. Illinois State, named Big Ten Player of the Week:
One of Illinois play-by-play man Dave Loane's favorite lines lately as been the Heater VanMeter when referring to Rachel VanMeter. The senior outside hitter lived up to her nickname as she smoked the host Redbirds for an Arena Record 39 kills and 10 digs in 79 attacks for a .342 hitting percentage. That figure not only a) broke the arena record, but also b) ranks third best in Illinois history behind Erin Borske's 44 and 41, respectively in matches in 1995 and c) is tied for 10th best in Big Ten history.
Illini try to keep invite win streak alive: Illinois has won five straight in-season tournaments over the past two seasons, winning the Illini Classic each of the past two years, claiming the University of Connecticut Invitational in 2003 and the Hurricane Frances Classic (hosted by Miami, Ohio) and the C&C Services Invitational (hosted by Arkansas) in 2004.
Virsilaite, Wojcik shine despite little practice time: Rasa Virsilaite ranked second on the Illinois team in kills vs. Illinois State despite being cleared to play full out last week. Virsilaite suffered through a heart murmur this summer and had been limited from hitting prior to last week. Wojcik, who was cleared to practice just last week, posted 10 digs in the victory.
All-time vs. Tournament teams: Illinois is playing Austin Peay and Wisconsin-Green Bay for the first time in school history. The Illini are 7-0 all-time vs. Indiana State and 16-3-1 all-time vs. Northern Illinois. The Illini have played Indiana State just once since 1985. The Illini have lost just one game vs. the Sycamores in school history. The Illini and Huskies, meanwhile, played 15 matches from 1974 (the first year of Illinois volleyball) and 1981. Illinois has won ten straight vs. NIU, including a 30-25, 30-24, 30-23 victory at the Loyola Tournament in 2002 and a 7-15, 15-13, 6-15, 15-7, 15-12 win in DeKalb in 2000 under Don Hardin.
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.
TV update: The Northwestern at Illinois match will be broadcast on Comcast SportsNet Chicago. The Minnesota at Illinois match will be shown on ESPN2.
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.
VanMeter named Pre-Season All-Big Ten: VanMeter, an Honorable Mention All-Conference selection a year ago, earned all-tournament honors at all three regular season tournaments the Illini participated in a year ago, two MVP honors. 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.
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 needs 152 kills to reach the top ten on the all-time kills list. 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 2,755 career attempts are tenth all-time in school history 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.
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 marked the earliest Illinois has ever started a season. In fact the Illini have only played 16 matches in school history in the month of August, posting a 13-3 record in those matches.
Macdonald continues to aim high
Meghan Macdonald entered this season with a .300 hitting percentage and moved above that mark after hitting .467 vs. Illinois State. Just 10 players have finished their Illini careers hitting over .300. Don Hardin has been the head coach for four of the top ten -- Lisa Argabright (5th, .352), Betsy Spicer (6th, .348), Christy Chapman (7th, .329), and Lydia Gard (8th, .320)