Notes: Illini Head North for Michigan State, Michigan
The Fighting Illini are 45-24 all-time against Michigan State and 21-11 in East Lansing. The Illini split the season series in 2012, with each team bouncing back from down 0-2 to win in five sets on the road. Alexis Viliunas made her first career appearance at MSU on Oct. 13, 2012, leading the Illini to a come-from-behind upset in East Lansing, but the Spartans got revenge on Oct. 16, erasing an 0-2 deficit to win in five at Huff. While the Spartans won the most recent matchup, Illinois has won nine of the last 12.
Illinois is 43-21 all-time against Michigan, narrowly holding the edge in Ann Arbor, 16-14. Illinois and Michigan split the season series in 2012, with each team winning its home contest. Michigan swept the Illini in Ann Arbor on Oct. 10, but Illinois took down the Wolverines, 3-1, on Nov. 17, in their home season finale on Senior Night, which would prove to be Michigan's final loss before the Final Four. Illinois has won eight of the last 10 matchups.
ON THE SMALL SCREEN
The Fighting Illini will play Michigan live on the Big Ten Network on Saturday in their 150th televised match in program history. Illinois has struggled on BTN lately, going 0-6 on the air since the beginning of 2012, but had a 10-9 record on BTN prior to last season for a total of 10-15 (.400). The Illini are 86-63 all-time on television, including 32-37 on national TV. The Illini are 0-1 in 2013, falling to Nebraska on BTN on Sept. 28.
ILLINOIS HAS FORMIDABLE SCHEDULE
Based on this week's AVCA Coaches Poll, the Illini face six of the top 10 teams: No. 1 Washington (L, 1-3), No. 4 Texas (L, 2-3), No. 5 Penn State (2), No. 8 Minnesota, No. 9 Michigan State (2), and No. 10 Nebraska (L, 0-3). [(2) refers to teams that the Illini play twice.] The Illini meet all seven teams ranked between 8-15, including #11 North Carolina (L, 0-3), #12 Ohio State (2), #13 San Diego (L, 1-3), #14 Michigan (2), and #15 Arizona State (W, 3-2). Moreover, No. 18 Florida State (W, 3-0), No. 19 Kentucky (W, 3-2), No. 23 Wisconsin, No. 24 Purdue (2) and No. 25 Iowa State (W, 3-0) grace the Illini's schedule, along with #29 Duke (L, 1-3).
In total, the Orange and Blue face six top 10 teams, 16 ranked opponents, and have 22 (of 30) matches against teams that are ranked in this week's poll.
Huff Hall will be the site of many great competitions, as all six top-10 opponents will come to Champaign. The Illini opened the home season in style with visits by the teams now ranked #1 (then-No. 6 Washington), #4 (then-No. 2 Texas) and #15 (then-#27 Arizona State), and had a visit by then-No. 12 Nebraska on Sept. 28.
The Illini have faced eight 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 and at home to No. 12 Nebraska on Sept. 28. The Illini are 3-5 against teams ranked at the time of the match, with four wins over teams who are 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.
ILLINI TOP THE ATTENDANCE CHARTS
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.
Illinois hosted Iowa on Sept. 27 at State Farm Center in the Big Ten season opener. The event drew a crowd of 7,061, the second-largest crowd in school history and the largest crowd ever for a volleyball-only event (the record, set in 2009 at 7,632, was held in conjunction with basketball's Illini Madness promotion).
The following evening, 3,476 fans came to watch Illinois take on No. 12 Nebraska, the 14th-largest crowd in Huff Hall history.
^NCAA Tournament; *held at State Farm Center
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. Through the first five weeks of 2013, Illinois is averaging 3,675 fans, which is nearly 600 higher than its best season ever.
Illinois is 2-3 at home this season, with all three losses coming to teams in the top 15. The Illini are 64-16 in front of a home crowd since the start of 2008. 14 of the 16 losses came to teams in the top 25, including three to No. 1 Penn State.
Through the first five weeks of the season, Illinois ranks fourth in the nation in average attendance (3,675) and sixth in total accumulation (18,375).
Five of the top 10 teams attendance-wise are Big Ten teams: Nebraska (1), Illinois (4), Minnesota (5), Penn State (7), Wisconsin (9).
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 184 digs so far in 2013, the libero needs just 44 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.