Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Ella Masar plays No. 14 Florida on the Big Ten Network Sept. 14
Sept. 5, 2007
Champaign, Ill. -
The Big Ten Network has announced its fall Olympic sport schedule and the Illinois volleyball and soccer teams will be shown three times each over the next two months.
The nationally-ranked Illini soccer team, featuring the 2006 Big Ten's Offensive (Ella Masar) and Defensive (Emily Zurrer) Players of the Year and the conference's Freshman of the Year (Chichi Nweke), hosts No. 14 Florida on Sept. 14 in a showdown of 2006 NCAA Tournament teams. Kick-off is slated for 5 p.m.
That is not the only highly-anticipated match head coach Janet Rayfield's squad has on the Big Ten Network. The Illini travel to Penn State Sept. 30 for a 2 p.m. tilt with national power Penn State. The Lions are the conference coaches' choice to win the Big Ten, while Illinois is picked second. Illinois downed Penn State for the first time in the regular season in 2006, but the Nittany Lions returned the favor in the Big Ten Tournament title match. Illinois' match-up with Purdue in West Lafayette on Oct. 21 will also be shown live.
"The Big Ten Network is going to make (our story) very tangible to the potential recruits across the country," Rayfield said. "We can share with them about Big Ten soccer, about Big Ten schools, about the Big Ten competitive environment and about what each of the programs are all about. That is going to be huge for us."
Don Hardin's young Illini volleyball squad, featuring the sixth-ranked recruiting class, has nearly upset two ranked opponents this season and will face one of the Big Ten's top teams on national TV in two weeks. Illinois will host BTN's first live volleyball telecast Sept. 19 as the Illini play meet No. 10 Wisconsin in the Big Ten opener for both teams. The Oct. 8 match with nationally-ranked Purdue and the Nov. 7 rematch with the Badgers in Madison is also on tap.
"The future of Big Ten volleyball could be very exciting," Hardin said. "The best volleyball you can see will be coming through Huff Gym. And it's not like we won't be armed against them. The Big Ten Network is hitting the volleyball scene at a perfect time when great recruits are coming in."
Big Ten volleyball sent a nation's best seven teams to the NCAA Tournament last season and produced five of the top 11 recruiting classes this year. Soccer, meanwhile, sent four teams to post-season in 2006, while the Illini have advanced the past four seasons. Illinois reached the Elite Eight in 2004 and advanced to the Sweet 16 a year ago.