Notes: Illini Return Home to Face No. 4 Penn State, No. 17 Ohio State
ILLINOIS VS. THE FIELD
The Fighting Illini are just 9-39 all-time against Penn State, who has been ranked in every matchup between the two teams since 1989 including No. 1 in the nation 11 times. Despite PSU owning the all-time series, just two Big Ten opponents have more wins against the Nittany Lions: Nebraska (13) and Ohio State (14). Illinois won three of the four matchups in 2010-11, sweeping the season series for the first time ever in 2011. The Illini were a point away from defeating the Nittany Lions for the third straight time on Oct. 6, 2012, ahead 14-10 in the fifth set, but PSU erased four match points and stole the set and match by a score of 18-16.
The Buckeyes own a narrow lead over the Illini in the all-time series at 36-38 after winning both contests in 2012. The Illini led the match 2-0 at home on Oct. 5, 2012, but OSU came all the way back to win in five. Illinois had the first two match points in Columbus on Nov. 10, 14-13 and 15-14, but OSU held on to win 17-15 and sweep the series with a pair of 5-set victories.
BELTRAN BREAKS CAREER DIGS RECORD
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, and on Oct. 12, the libero tallied 11 digs at Indiana to pass Ashley Edinger '09 and become Illinois' all-time career digs leader.
Additionally, Beltran is 10th in the nation among active players and the active Big Ten leader, ranking eighth 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
ON THE SMALL SCREEN
As a program, Illinois has played on television 150 times over its history. The Illini are 87-63 all-time on the small screen, including 33-37 on national TV. On Oct. 5, Illinois pulled out an exciting come back over No. 14 Michigan to defeat the Wolverines in front of a national TV audience on the Big Ten Network. The win snapped a six-match BTN losing streak and marked the Illini's first win on BTN since 2011. The Illini are now 11-15 on the Big Ten Network and 1-1 on television in 2013.
ILLINOIS HAS NATION'S TOUGHEST SCHEDULE
According to the NCAA RPI, Illinois has played the nation's most difficult schedule so far this season. The Illini have faced seven teams in the RPI top 25 and 13 of their 16 matches were against teams in the top 50. Illinois' opponent Texas, ranked #1 in the RPI, is the only other team to have faced more top-25 teams, going 8-1 against them for the #2 SOS. Additional opponents Penn State (#6) and Nebraska (#7) also sit in the top 10.
Based on this week's AVCA Coaches Poll, the Illini face six of the top 10 teams, 16 of the top 25, and have 23 (of 30) matches against teams that are receiving votes.
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 then-No. 2 Texas, No. 6 Washington, and Arizona State, who was receiving votes that week but has since jumped into the rankings. The Illini hosted then-No. 12 Nebraska on Sept. 28, who has since entered the top 10, and awaits visits by No. 4 Penn State (Oct. 18), No. 5 Michigan State (Nov. 9) and No. 10 Minnesota (Nov. 30).
The Illini have faced 11 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. Illinois then went 1-1 on the road, falling at No. 9 Michigan State (3-0) but defeating No. 14 Michigan, 3-2. Illinois dropped a heartbreaker at No. 20 Purdue (3-1) the following weekend, for a season record of 4-7 against teams ranked at the time of the match.
According this week's RPI, Illinois will face 11 of the top 25 teams and have just one opponent ranked outside the top 100. The Illini dropped a close match to #1 Texas in five and lost to #6 Nebraska and #9 Michigan State in three, and #8 Washington 3-1. The Illini face NU and MSU again, and await a pair of matches with #2 Penn State beginning this weekend.
Based on the RPI, Illinois' best victory came over #22 Kentucky (3-2), with five of the Illini's seven victories coming over teams ranked in the top 60. Alternately, six of Illinois' nine losses were to teams in the top 20.
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
The Illini drew a total of 3,538 fans at the "Stuff Huff" match vs. No. 6 Washington on Sept. 13. 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.
So far in 2013, Illinois has averaged 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.
So far in 2013, Illinois ranks fourth in the nation in average attendance (3,675). Five of the top 10 teams attendance-wise are Big Ten teams: Nebraska (1), Illinois (4), Minnesota (5), Penn State (8), Wisconsin (9).
The Fighting Illini opened 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 was Elementary School Field Trip day. That evening, the Illini hosted the eighth-annual Stuff Huff against No. 6 Washington, where they brought in one of the best Huff Crowds ever with 3,538 fans. Illinois then closed the weekend with a visit by the defending national champion Texas Longhorns.
On Friday, Sept. 27, Illinois garnered a record-setting crowd of 7,061 fans in the Dad's Day match against Iowa at State Farm Center. It was the largest volleyball-only crowd in program history and the second-best Illinois crowd ever, with the record being set back in 2009 at 7,632 in a match that was held at then "Assembly Hall" in conjunction with basketball's "Illini Madness" meet-the-team promotion.
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 (8th grade and below). During the weekend of Sept. 27-28, the Illini Networkers held a pink jersey silent auction, which raised over $4,000. Three additional jerseys were auctioned on eBay, with net proceeds going to Mills Breast Cancer Institute in Urbana. The jerseys that were sold in the silent auction will be worn in the Ohio State match, with the name of the winning bidder's choosing displayed on the back.
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.
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 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.