Illini Close Nonconference Slate in North Carolina
ILLINOIS VS. THE FIELD
The Fighting Illini are 3-1 all-time against the Tar Heels, with the most recent matchup coming in the Illini's 2008 season opener at the State Farm Illini Classic. The Illini swept UNC on opening night en route to claiming the Classic title.
Illinois has visited Chapel Hill once, for the Glaxo Smith Kline UNC Volleyball Classic on Sept. 8-9, 2006. The Illini swept UNC, then fell 3-2 to Wichita State, before completing the weekend with a 3-1 win over the College of Charleston.
The Illini have only faced Duke once in the past 39 seasons, taking down the Blue Devils, 3-0, in Durham on Oct. 12, 1989. The Illini were ranked seventh at the time.
North Carolina enters this weekend sitting at a perfect 9-0, having lost just three sets so far on the year. UNC is one of just 12 Division I teams to remain undefeated this far into the season. The Tar Heels' toughest weekend was the Bobcat Invitational on Sept. 6-7, when UNC defeated Dayton (3-0), Ohio (3-2) and Cincinnati (3-0). Dayton was ranked in the preseason poll and was receiving votes that week, while Ohio entered the poll this week at No. 24.
Statistically, the Tar Heels top the charts in assists and kills, ranking fourth in the nation with 13.87 assists per set and 10th with 14.83 kills per set. Additionally, they rank 31st in blocks (2.70/s) and 36th in hitting percentage (.271).
SCOUTING THE BLUE DEVILS
Duke is 7-2 so far this season, with both if its losses coming to top-10 teams. The Blue Devils swept their home invitational this past weekend with wins over Liberty, Utah State and South Carolina, but have fallen to No. 9 Florida and No. 4 Minnesota, 3-0.
From a statistical standpoint, Duke ranks fourth in the NCAA in kills (15.29/s) and eighth in assists (13.79/set), along with 38th in hitting percentage (.267). Like Beltran, Duke senior Ali McCurdy is making a run at the Blue Devils' all-time digs record, ranking second in the nation among active players and second all-time at Duke with 2,067 career digs. Duke's all-time digs record was set by Jenny Shull in 2007 at 2,200.
HAMBLY CAPTURES 100TH CAREER VICTORY
It's been a long time coming, but Head Coach Kevin Hambly marked down his 100th career victory on Sept. 13, 2013, with a five-set victory over Arizona State. Hambly posted 82 wins through his first three seasons, but with such a challenging schedule in 2012, he had to wait another full season before finally crossing the three-digit plateau. Despite the implication that it took him a while, he is actually one of the fastest head coaches to ever reach the 100 mark, doing so in just 138 matches (.724).
Hambly is Illinois' third head coach to reach this milestone. Mike Hebert also captured his 100th win during his fifth season back on Oct. 30, 1987, in his 133rd match at Illinois. Don Hardin reached the milestone on Nov. 14, 2001, in match #175 towards the end of his sixth season.
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. 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. After a 1-2 weekend at home, Illinois comes in at No. 16 this week.
Over their first five matches of the season, the Illini led the Big Ten in blocks, averaging 3.13 per set. After a tough home tournament, the Illini dropped to fourth, now averaging 2.70, which ranks 32nd in the nation.
Illinois out-blocked its opponent in each of the first five matches, and has recorded five double-digit block matches, including two at 15+ (San Diego, Kentucky).
The front line is manned by redshirt freshman Maddie Mayers, who leads the Big Ten and ranks fifth in the nation by averaging 1.61 blocks per set. 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, and 16 more at the Illini Classic.
ILLINOIS HAS FORMIDABLE SCHEDULE
Illinois has another difficult schedule ahead. Based on this week's AVCA Coaches Poll, the Illini face six of the top 10 teams including all of the top 3: No. 1 Penn State (2), No. 2 San Diego (L, 1-3), No. 3 Washington (L, 1-3), No. 6 Texas (L, 2-3), No. 9 Minnesota, No. 10 Michigan (2). The No. 16 Illini meet all seven teams ranked between 12-19: #12 Nebraska (2), #13 Ohio State (2), #14 Michigan State (2), #15 North Carolina, #17 Florida State (W, 3-0), #18 Arizona State (W, 3-2), #19 Kentucky (W, 3-2). Moreover, No. 21 Purdue (2) and No. 25 Iowa State grace the Illini's schedule, along with Wisconsin, who dropped to #32 this week. (2) refers to teams that the Illini play twice.
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. The Illini opened the home season in style with visits by the teams now ranked #3 (then-No. 6 Washington), #6 (then-No. 2 Texas) and #18 (then-#27 Arizona State).
The Illini have faced six 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. The Orange and Blue defeated Arizona State, which was receiving votes and moved to No. 18 in the following poll, in their home opener, then dropped matches to No. 6 Washington and No. 2 Texas. The Illini are 3-3 against teams ranked at the time of the match with four wins over teams ranked in this week's poll.
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. The first 2013 RPI is scheduled to come out on Oct. 7.
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 faced three 2012 conference champions in their non-conference slate: Texas (Big 12), Florida State (ACC) and San Diego (West Coast), going 1-2 against the pack.
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 135 digs so far in 2013, the libero needs just 98 more to pass Ashley Edinger '09 and become the Illini's all-time career digs leader.
Additionally, Beltran is sixth 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
ILLINI TOP THE ATTENDANCE CHARTS
Illinois played Iowa State on Aug. 31, 2012 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.
At the 2013 Illini Classic, the Illini averaged 2,613 fans, with a total of 3,538 fans attending the "Stuff Huff" match vs. No. 6 Washington. That mark sits just behind the 2012 "Stuff Huff" match in 11th 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 in 2012, with an average of 2,809 fans per match.
Six of the top 10 teams attendance-wise in 2012 were members of the Big Ten in Nebraska (2), Minnesota (3), Penn State (4), Wisconsin (5), Purdue (8) and Illinois (9).
ILLINOIS TO HOST 2013 NCAA REGIONAL
The NCAA has selected Illinois to be one of four Regional hosts for the 2013 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.