30th Annual Illini Classic to Feature Top Competition
30th Annual Illini Classic: Tournament Central Website
30TH ANNUAL ILLINI CLASSIC
This weekend marks the 30th-annual Illini Classic, hosted every fall since 1984. Illinois has won 21 of the 28 outright titles, and split a two-match series with No. 15 Iowa State in the 2012 Illini Classic. The Illini have not lost an Illini Classic since 2005, winning 16 of the last 18 tournaments. With the uneven schedule of the 2013 Illini Classic, there will not be a tournament champion this year.
EIGHTH ANNUAL STUFF HUFF PROMOTION
On Friday night, the Fighting Illini will host Washington in the eighth annual "Stuff Huff" match. The Illini are 7-0 since the promotion began in 2006, with the Illini defeating No. 15 Iowa State, 3-0, in front of a monster crowd of 3,770 in the 2012 home opener. This year will mark the second-straight year that the Illini will take on a ranked opponent for the "Stuff Huff" match. Stuff Huff is renowned for its vast crowds, as the Illini have averaged 2,681 fans per game, with 3,000+ crowds in 2006 and 2012.
ILLINOIS VS. THE FIELD
The Fighting Illini are 1-0 all time against Arizona State with the sole matchup coming back on Sept. 4, 1987. Then-No. 6 Illinois defeated then-No. 13 ASU, 3-1, in the fourth-annual Illini Classic held at Kenney Gym.
Similarly, Illinois is 1-0 against Washington, not having faced the Huskies since Sept. 13, 1985. Illinois defeated the Huskies, 3-0, at the UNLV Tournament which helped the Illini to enter the AVCA Rankings for the first time in school history, clocking in at No. 17 the following week. The win was #8 in the Illini's historic 30-0 start in 1985.
The Illini have a storied history with Texas, having met the Longhorns 13 times over the past 30 years, including twice in the NCAA Regionals. Illinois has the edge on the all-time series, leading 7-6, after taking down the sixth-ranked Longhorns on their home court in five sets last season. Texas would go on to win the next 17-straight matches and finish out the year on a 23-1 run en route to capturing the 2012 NCAA title.
Despite having faced Texas five times since then, the last time the Longhorns came to Champaign was back in 1993. Texas is 1-0 at Huff Hall and 1-1 overall in Champaign-Urbana.
Texas has been ranked in the top 10 all 13 times that the Illini have faced them. The Illini have a postseason bone to pick with the Longhorns, as UT has stifled Illinois twice in NCAA Regionals. No. 6 Texas swept No. 16 Illinois in the 1995 Gainesville Regional. No. 5 Illinois trounced No. 2 Texas on Sept. 3, 2010, 3-0, but the Longhorns got revenge in the 2010 Austin Regional, defeating the No. 14 Illini in five sets after Illinois had lost two-time All-American Laura DeBruler to a career-ending injury.
SCOUTING THE HUSKIES
Washington opened the year 4-0 with victories over Boise State, Portland State, Gonzaga and Seattle. This past weekend, the Huskies played a pair of exhibition matches against the Canadian National Team, winning both matches in four sets.
The Huskies lead the nation in service aces, putting up 34 in four NCAA matches and adding 15 against Canada. Washington's .351 team hitting percentage ranks second in the NCAA, with sophomore middle blocker Melanie Wade sitting in sixth in the country, hitting .509. UW ranks 12th overall in assists (13.79/s), with senior Jenni Nogueras and sophomore Katy Beals sharing setter duties. The team also ranks in the top 10 in kills (14.86/s) and 30th in blocks (2.68/s).
SCOUTING THE SUN DEVILS
Arizona State is off to a hot start in 2013, opening the year 6-0 including a 3-0 victory over No. 24 Wichita State. The Sun Devils have yet to lose a set, going a perfect 18-0, which helped launch ASU into the polls this week, sitting just outside the top 25 at 27th in the nation.
The Sun Devils are powered by sophomore outside hitter Macey Gardner, this week's Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week, who leads the nation in kills (5.94/s) and is second in the NCAA in points (6.39/s). Gardner is fueled by sophomore setter Bianca Arellano, who ranks seventh in the nation with 12.11 assists per set.
SCOUTING THE LONGHORNS
The defending National Champion Texas Longhorns faltered in their season opener on Aug. 31, falling 3-1 at No. 11 Hawaii, a potent team who rarely loses at home. The Longhorns rebounded to defeat UTEP and San Diego to finish out the weekend, but watched their AVCA ranking drop from #1 to #6. However, Texas then hosted the venerable Nike Big Four Classic, taking down No. 1 Penn State and No. 2 Stanford to jump back up to No. 2 in the national rankings this week.
Upperclassmen outside hitters Bailey Webster and Haley Eckerman lead the Longhorn offense, with 61 and 58 kills, respectively, with Hannah Allison and Chloe Collins sharing setting duties, each tallying 98 assists. The team ranks 36th in the nation in blocks (2.62/s), led by junior Khat Bell with 23.
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 at the invite, 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.
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. A victory over No. 11 Iowa State on Sept. 8 helped push the Illini even higher in the polls, moving up to No. 14 on Sept. 9.
Over their first five matches of the season, the Illini lead the Big Ten in blocks, averaging 3.13 per set. Illinois has a healthy lead over the second-place Spartans, who average just 3.02. On a national level, the Illini rank seventh in the NCAA in blocks per set and are tops among nationally-ranked teams.
Illinois has out-blocked its opponent in every match this season, registering 15+ twice in the first five matches.
The front line is manned by redshirt freshman Maddie Mayers, who leads the Big Ten and ranks third in the nation by averaging 1.79 blocks per set. She has tallied eight more blocks than the next conference player with a total of 34. Mayers put together 20 blocks on opening weekend to lead to Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors, then added an additional 14 over two matches in Ames, Iowa. Junior Liz McMahon ranks ninth in the Big Ten, averaging 1.11 blocks per set, including a team-season-best 10 against Kentucky.
MAYERS NAMED B1G FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK (SEPT. 2)
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 HAS FORMIDABLE SCHEDULE
Illinois has another difficult schedule ahead. Based on this week's AVCA Coaches Poll, the Illini will face six of the top 10 teams, in No. 2 Texas, No. 3 Penn State, No. 4 Minnesota, No. 6 Washington, No. 7 Michigan and No. 9 San Diego. The No. 14 Illini meet all seven teams ranked between 12-19 (#12 Nebraska, #13 Ohio State, #15 Michigan State, #16 Florida State, #17 Iowa State, #18 North Carolina, #19 Kentucky), having already defeated FSU, ISU and Kentucky. Moreover, No. 22 Purdue and No. 25 Wisconsin grace the Illini's schedule, and Friday's opponent, Arizona State, is the second-highest vote-getter outside the top 25.
In total, the Orange and Blue face six top 10 teams, 13 top 20 teams, 15 ranked opponents, and have 21 (of 30) matches against teams that are ranked in this week's poll.
Huff Hall will be the site of many great competitions, as five top-10 opponents will come to Champaign, including two this weekend at the Illini Classic.
The Illini have faced four ranked opponents thus far. The Illini defeated then-No. 18 Florida State and then-No. 17 Kentucky opening weekend, but fell 3-1 to the host LBSU, who was receiving votes. Illinois split with a pair of ranked foes the following weekend in Ames, falling to No. 14 San Diego, 3-1, but sweeping No. 11 Iowa State for a season record of 3-1 against ranked teams.
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. Beltran entered her final season in second place all-time with 1,694 career digs. With 73 digs so far in 2013, the libero needs just 154 more to pass Ashley Edinger '09 and become the Illini's all-time career digs leader.
Additionally, Beltran is fifth in the nation among active players and the active Big Ten leader, ranking 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 in the Big Ten record books.
*First two seasons at Creighton
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.
HAMBLY PRODUCING ALL-AMERICANS
Illinois has 23 All-America honors among 14 players in school history. Of those, six players have earned 11 honors with Kevin Hambly on staff. Three of the five first-team All-Americans have come under Hambly (Laura DeBruler, Colleen Ward, Michelle Bartsch).
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.