Illini Head to Ames for Iowa State Challenge
The Fighting Illini are 3-1 all-time against Iowa State and 1-0 in Ames. Illinois defeated the Cyclones, 2-0, on Oct. 16, 1981, then 3-1 in Ames the following November. The two teams did not play again for 20 years, when the No. 15 Cyclones came to Huff Hall for a two-match series in the 2012 State Farm Illini Classic. Illinois took down ISU, 3-0, in the series opener in front of 3,770 fans, but fell, 3-2, in the first of what would going on to be a school-record 13 five-set matches in 2012.
Illinois has only faced San Diego once in its 39-year history, back on Sept. 14, 1985. The Illini swept the Toreros, 3-0, at the UNLV Tournament for win #10 of what would be the greatest start in Illinois history at 30-0.
SCOUTING SAN DIEGO
The Toreros had a successful opening weekend at the Chevron Rainbow Wahine Invitational in Honolulu last weekend. San Diego began the year with a 3-1 victory over UTEP, then took the defending national champion No. 1 Texas Longhorns to five sets. It did not stop there, as the Toreros turned heads on Sunday night with a 3-2 victory over No. 11 Hawaii, which launched USD into the AVCA rankings at No. 14.
The Toreros return senior middle Katie Hoekman, who finished 2013 ranked 14th in the nation with a .389 hitting percentage and averaged 1.11 blocks per set. Hoekman hit .470 with 45 kills in Hawaii. Fellow senior Chloe Ferrari ranked 37th hitting .367 last season, and put up 37 kills hitting .431 this past weekend. The Toreros also have a trio of upperclassman outside hitters, Alaysia Brown, Sandra Lozic and Taylor Hollins, who combined for 120 kills on the weekend.
SCOUTING IOWA STATE
The Cyclones went 3-0 to open the season at the UND Classic in Great Forks, N.D. Iowa State defeated South Dakota State (3-0), North Dakota (3-0) and Texas A&M (3-1), who was receiving votes last week, to win the tournament and jump up to No. 11 in the national rankings.
Iowa State finished 2012 in the top 75 nationally in four statistical categories as a team, ranking 23rd in assists (13.30/s), 28th in kills (14.25/s), 51st in hitting percentage (.242) and 67th in digs (16.53/s). The Cyclones graduated setter Alison Landwehr, who ranked 21st in the nation last season with 11.32 assists per set, but return senior libero Kristen Hahn, who led the conference and ranked 23rd nationally with 5.44 digs per set.
Rightside hitter Mackenzie Bigbee led the Cyclones with 41 kills over the weekend, hitting .419, and sophomore setter Jenelle Hudson put up 134 assists in her debut as the Cyclones' primary setter.
ISU then took on UNI on Wednesday for an in-state matchup. The Cyclones won the first two sets, but UNI came back to send the match to five, before Iowa State closed the match with a 15-9 victory in the fifth. Ciara Capezio paced the Cylcones with 22 kills.
ILLINI WIN LBSU MIZUNO INVITATIONAL
The Fighting Illini opened the season on the West Coast, taking on three top teams at the Long Beach State Mizuno Invitational. Illinois began by defeating No. 18 Florida State 3-0, then faltered after winning the first set at LBSU, falling 3-1. The young Illini quickly rebounded the following night, coming back from down 2-1 to defeat No. 17 Kentucky in five.
Six Illini made their Orange and Blue debut over the weekend, most notably redshirt freshman Maddie Mayers, whose outstanding performance earned her Big Ten Freshman of the Week and All-Tournament honors. True freshman Katie Stadick started in the middle against LBSU, and sophomore Kathryn Polkoff stuffed two blocks for her in the fourth set. True freshmen Katie Roustio, Danielle Davis and McKenna Kelsay all earned playing time on the weekend as well.
Jocelynn Birks earned her second career all-tournament MVP award, after leading all players with 58 kills to go along with 15 digs, six blocks and two aces. Jennifer Beltran played lights-out defense in the back row, earning all-tournament libero honors after recording 51 digs, including the 1,700th of her career. Junior Anna Dorn, who is still working her way back from offseason knee surgery, looked like her old self again in her start against No. 17 Kentucky, hitting .857 with six kills and six blocks.
MAYERS NAMED BIG TEN FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK
Redshirt freshman Maddie Mayers burst onto the scene in her Illini debut at the Long Beach State Mizuno Invitational, hitting .345 with 29 kills and 20 blocks over three matches to earn Big Ten Freshman of the Week on Sept. 2. The middle blocker hit .625 with 11 kills in her first career match to lead the Illini past No. 18 Florida State in straight sets, then put up seven blocks against LBSU in the night cap. But it didn't stop there; in the weekend finale, Mayers registered 13 kills and nine blocks to power Illinois past No. 17 Kentucky, 3-2. She was just one block shy of registering the first kills-blocks double-double since Student Assistant Erin Johnson recorded 11 kills and 10 blocks at Minnesota on Sept. 23, 2011.
ILLINOIS RETURNS TO THE AVCA RANKINGS
The Fighting Illini tied their program record last season with 71 consecutive weeks in the AVCA Top 25 before dropping out of the rankings mid-season after suffering eight heartbreaking 5-set losses. With a promising set of young players back for 2013, the Illini received votes in the 2013 AVCA Preseason Poll to head into opening weekend as the 29th-ranked team in country. However, it did not take long for the Illini to prove they deserve better, as victories over No. 18 Florida State and No. 17 Kentucky helped the Illini return to the AVCA Top 25 on Sept. 2, debuting at No. 18, their highest ranking since ranking No. 7 in the 2012 Preseason Poll after their NCAA title run in 2011.
Over their first weekend of play at the Long Beach State Mizuno Invitational, the Illini put up a total of 36.5 blocks, to lead the Big Ten with an average of 3.04 blocks per set. Redshirt freshman Maddie Mayers contributed 20 of those 36 blocks, to average 1.67 over 12 sets. She ranks second in the Big Ten in blocks per set and has three more total blocks than Northwestern's Maddie Slater in second place. Liz McMahon was not far behind with 15 blocks on the weekend, including 10 against No. 17 Kentucky. Her six blocks in the second set helped provide a momentum shift to lead the Illini past the Wildcats, 3-2. Averaging 1.25, McMahon ranks sixth in the Big Ten. The Illini out-blocked their opponents in all three matches, including putting up a total of 16.0 against Kentucky.
ILLINOIS HAS FORMIDABLE SCHEDULE
Illinois has another difficult schedule ahead. Based on this week's AVCA Coaches Poll, the Illini will face five of the top seven teams, in No. 1 Penn State, No. 4 Minnesota, No. 5 Washington, No. 6 Texas and No. 7 Michigan. The Illini will meet four additional teams in the top 15 (No. 11 Iowa State, No. 13 Nebraska, No. 14 San Diego and No. 15 Florida State), along with the five teams ranked 20-24 (Michigan State, Kentucky, Purdue, Ohio State, North Carolina). Additionally, Long Beach State and Wisconsin are receiving votes.
In total, the Orange and Blue face nine top-15 teams, 14 ranked teams, and 16 opponents who are receiving votes, with 20 of their 30 matches coming against teams that are ranked this week.
Huff Hall will be the site of many great competitions, as all five top-10 opponents will come to Champaign.
The Illini have faced two ranked opponents thus far, then-No. 18 Florida State and then-No. 17 Kentucky, and defeated them both. Illinois also faced LBSU on opening weekend, who was receiving votes, but lost 3-1.
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.
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, 2012, 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. With 51 digs so far in 2013, the libero needs just 176 more 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 14th all time in conference history. With 500 digs in 2013, a figure she's met in each of her first three seasons, Beltran can finish second all-time conference history.
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.