Erin Johnson leads the Big Ten in attack percentage
Sept. 8, 2010
Illinois moves up to No. 3: Illinois moved up two spots to No. 3 in the latest AVCA Coaches Poll. The Illini began the year at No. 6 and moved up to No. 5 on Aug. 30. Penn State, winners of 108 in a row, is No. 1 followed by Stanford, Illinois, Florida and Texas. Two of this week's opponents are also ranked -- Nebraska at No. 7 and Dayton at No. 20.
Illini knock off No. 2 Texas: Illinois is in the midst of playing the pre-season top three teams in the country in three out of four weeks. Last week, Illinois defeated No. 2 Texas, a team that started the year No. 3 in the preseason polls. The Illini downed the Longhorns in straight sets, 25-23, 25-18, 25-18. The victory snapped Texas' 25-match home court winning streak. It also marked the first 3-0 loss for Texas since falling in straight sets to USC in the Florida Regional on Dec. 9, 2007 and the first 3-0 loss at home since Notre Dame topped Texas at Gregory Gymnasium on Sept. 6, 2003.
Bartsch earns Tournament MVP; Big Ten Player of the Week
Illinois junior right side hitter Michelle Bartsch, the MVP of the Time Warner Cable Invitational, in Austin, Tex., was named the Big Ten Player of the Week on Sept. 6. Illinois libero Jennifer Bonilla earned the conference's co-Freshman of the Week after helping lead Illinois to a perfect 2-0 weekend, which included a 3-0 sweep at No. 2 Texas.
Bartsch wins her first Big Ten Player of the Week honor after hitting .514 to help the Illini to the team title. The junior was 10-for-19 hitting and chipped in three blocks on Friday against second-ranked Texas, guiding Illinois to a three-set win over the Longhorns and ending Texas' 25-match home court winning streak. The following day against Florida A&M, Bartsch finished with nine kills and two blocks in a sweep. On the weekend, she averaged 3.8 kills and 1.0 blocks per set for the third-ranked Illini.
Bonilla anchored the Illinois serve-pass game over the weekend. The freshman libero averaged 5.2 digs per set in Illinois' three-set wins over No. 2 Texas and Florida A&M in the tournament. On Friday against the Longhorns, Bonilla finished with 18 digs and added 13 digs against Florida A&M and was 23-for-23 in service receiving attempts for the weekend.
Early Big Ten rivalry? The Big Ten announced the addition of Nebraska to the conference starting in the 2011-12 season. The meeting with the Huskers will provide a sneak peek of what should be two of the top teams in the Big Ten in the coming years.
Big crowds expected for this weekend's matches: Illinois will be playing in front of a hostile environment this weekend. Nebraska has sold out its season ticket package for the 4,030 seat NU Coliseum. Saturday's matches will be played in the 13,800-seat Bob Devaney Center. As of Wednesday, just over 11,000 tickets were sold for the Illini match with Huskers Saturday night.
Defeating top-five teams: Illinois has four victories in school history over top-five opponents with three of those four now coming on the road. Prior to the win over Texas, the last top-five win came on Sept. 11, 2004, a five-set victory over No. 1 USC. The 16th-ranked Illini defeated No. 3 Hawaii on the island in three sets on Nov. 4, 1992, and eighth-ranked Illinois defeated No. 4 Nebraska in Lincoln in five sets on Nov. 11, 1989.
Illini trying to move up rankings: Illinois has moved back into the top five in the national rankings. The highest Illinois has ever been ranked was No. 2 back in 1988, a year that saw the Illini finish No. 4.
Illinois vs. top-five teams: Illlinois has three victories over top-five teams in school history, the last coming on Sept. 11, 2004, a five-set victory over No. 1 USC. The 16th-ranked Illini defeated No. 3 Hawaii on the island in three sets on Nov. 4, 1992, and eighth-ranked Illinois defeated No. 4 Nebraska in Lincoln in five sets on Nov. 11, 1989.
Ranking shake-up coming:
Over the next three weeks there are several key match-ups across the country which have a big impact on the rankings. This weekend, for instance at the University of Florida, No. 1 Penn State plays No. 4 Florida and No. 2 Stanford meets No. 5 Texas. The winners and losers meet Saturday in classic format.
No. 3 Illinois plays No. 7 Nebraska as well as No. 20 Dayton this weekend and in two weeks hosts No. 1 Penn State at Huff Hall.
Nebraska meanwhile travels to No. 11 Iowa State next weekend
The top-10 already includes three-one loss teams with No. 5 Texas, losing to No. 3 Illinois, No. 6 Hawaii falling to No. 8 Southern California, and No. 7 Nebraska falling to No. 4 Florida.
Illinois vs. Nebraska: Illinois is 5-14-1 all-time vs. Nebraska, including a 2-6 mark in Lincoln. The last Illinois victory over the Huskers came in the 1992 Regional Semifinal at Huff Hall. The Illini also defeated the Huskers earlier that year in Champaign.
Frequent Flyers: Illinois and Dayton have met regularly in recent years. This marks the fifth straight year that Illinois has met the Flyers with the teams splitting the last four matches.
The Illini defeated Dayton in four sets in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last year at Huff Hall. Laura DeBruler had 22 kills and hit .455 in the victory. Dayton had won the previous two meetings in five sets.
In 2007, Dayton overcame two Illinois match points to win set four in the championship match of the Dayton Flyer Classic. In 2008, the Illini fell to Flyers at a tournament in Tennessee.
Illinois vs. Western Michigan
Illinois is 13-3 all-time vs. Western Michigan, but the two teams have not met since 1990. The Broncos have been annual NCAA Tournament qualifiers, having defeated Dayton and Tulane to reach the Sweet 16 in 2008, playing in the same Regional as Illinois at State College, Pa.
Illinois has won seven straight vs. Western Michigan. The last Bronco win in the series came on Sept. 9, 1983.
Middles pacing the Big Ten
Illinois boasts the top two hitting percentage leaders in the Big Ten so far this year. Sophomore middle blocker Erin Johnson is hitting .509 (32-4-55) while senior Johannah Bangert is hitting .500 (33-5-56). Johnson had 10 kills in 11 attacks vs. Florida A&mM615 (9-1-13) in back-to-back matches with Middle Tennessee and Texas.