State Farm Center, BTN Highlight Volleyball This Week
ILLINOIS VS. THE FIELD
The Fighting Illini are 55-13 all-time against Iowa. Their .809 winning percentage against the Hawkeyes is better than Illinois' record against any other Big Ten team. Illinois has won the last 13-straight matchups, dating back to 2005. The last Hawkeye win came on Oct. 14, 2005, when Iowa defeated Illinios, 3-0, at Huff Hall. Matchups between Illinois and Iowa tend to be fairly quick, as the pair have not gone to five sets since Nov. 11, 2000, and have only done so eight times in their 68 meetings.
In contrast, Illinois has its lowest winning percentage of all Big Ten opponents against Nebraska, going just 5-17-1 all-time against the Huskers. Nebraska has won both matchups since joining the Big Ten in 2011 and holds a 6-match winning streak dating back to 1993.
Illinois has a storied history with Nebraska, meeting the Huskers five times in the NCAA Tournament between 1986 and 1992, making Nebraska the team its has faced most often in postseason play. The No. 12 Illini lost 3-0 at No. 7 Nebraska in the 1986 Regional Final, then avenged that loss the following season with a 3-0 win over No. 8 Nebraska at home in the Regional Final to advance to their first-ever Final Four. No. 5 Nebraska kept Illinois from its third-straight Final Four berth in 1989, sweeping the seventh-ranked Illini in Lincoln in the 1989 Regional Final. Illinois lost once again in Lincoln in the 1991 Mideast First Round, then exacted revenge in front of a sold out crowd at Huff Hall on Dec. 10, 1992, wtih a 3-0 sweep in the Regional Semifinal.
1986 Regional Final (Lincoln) - NEB, 3-0
STATE FARM CENTER VOLLEYBALL HISTORY
The Illini have played two matches at State Farm Center (formerly Assembly Hall) in the 39-year history of the program. Illinois hosted No. 6 Minnesota on Oct. 16, 2009, in front of a school-record crowd of 7,632 fans at what was then called Assembly Hall prior to men's basketball's Illini Madness meet-the-team event. The Illini pulled out an exciting upset in front of the roaring crowd, sweeping the Golden Gophers 25-19, 27-25, 25-22.
The first volleyball match ever to be played at State Farm Center came on Nov. 10, 1981, when the Illini hosted top-ranked Hawaii. The Wahines swept Illinois in straight sets in front of a crowd of approximately 800 fans. While that is meager compared to today's standards, it was the largest home crowd to date, as it topped what was the capacity in Kenney Gym at the time.
Illinois will host three more matches at State Farm Center before the year ends, as the Illini were chosen to host the 2013 NCAA Regional at SFC in Dec. 13-14. All-session passes for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight are available at the Illinois Ticket Office or by calling 1-866-ILLINI-1.
11/10/81 Hawaii L 2-15, 3-15, 3-15
ON THE SMALL SCREEN
The Fighting Illini play their first televised match of the season on Saturday against Nebraska on the Big Ten Network. It will be thier 149th televised game and the 25th match to be played on BTN. Illinois struggled on BTN last season, going 0-5 on the air, but had a 10-9 record on BTN prior to 2012, for a total of 10-14 (.417). The Illini are 86-62 all-time on television, including 32-36 on national TV.
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 HAS FORMIDABLE SCHEDULE
Based on this week's AVCA Coaches Poll, the Illini face six of the top 10 teams: No. 1 Penn State (2), No. 2 Washington (L, 1-3), No. 5 Texas (L, 2-3), No. 8 San Diego (L, 1-3), No. 9 Minnesota, No. 10 Michigan (2). [(2) refers to teams that the Illini play twice.] The Illini meet all seven teams ranked between 12-18: #12 Nebraska (2), #13 Ohio State (2), #14 North Carolina (L, 0-3), #15 Michigan State (2), #16 Arizona State (W, 3-2), #17 Florida State (W, 3-0), #18 Kentucky (W, 3-2). Moreover, No. 20 Purdue (2) and No. 25 Iowa State (W, 3-0) grace the Illini's schedule, along with Wisconsin and Duke, who are receiving votes.
In total, the Orange and Blue face six top 10 teams, 14 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 #2 (then-No. 6 Washington), #5 (then-No. 2 Texas) and #16 (then-#27 Arizona State). Illinois hosts No. 12 Nebraska this Saturday on BTN.
The Illini have faced seven ranked opponents thus far. Illinois 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. Illinois fell 3-0 at No. 15 North Carolina on Sept. 20. The Illini are 3-4 against teams ranked at the time of the match and all four of their wins came 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), and went 1-2.
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. Illinois dropped to 16th after a 1-2 weekend at home, then fell to No. 24 on Sept. 23 due to losses at UNC and Duke.
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 58 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
Over their first five matches of the season, the Illini led the Big Ten in blocks, averaging 3.13 per set. After taking on three more top-15 teams, the Illini dropped to fourth, now averaging 2.68, which ranks 31st in the nation.
Illinois out-blocked its opponent in each of the first five matches, and has recorded six 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 ninth in the nation by averaging 1.46 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.
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.
Friday, Sept. 27, is volleyball's Dad's Day match, to be held at 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.