Match Notes: Illinois to Host Northwestern on Wednesday Night
Oct. 16, 2012
Wednesday, Oct. 17 • Northwestern at No. 25 Illinois • Huff Hall • 7 p.m.
Video: Illinois All-Access: http://goo.gl/qgTMJ
ABOUT NORTHWESTERN (13-6, 2-6 Big Ten)
The Wildcats had a perfect, 11-0, non-conference slate, but have gone 2-6 since the start of Big Ten play. Northwestern defeated No. 25 Michigan State on Oct. 12 for its first victory over a ranked opponent, going 1-4 so far on the year against teams in the top 25 (all Big Ten). The Wildcats' only other Big Ten win came in four sets at Indiana on Sept. 29.
The Wildcats received votes in the Sept. 10 and Sept. 17 polls, but have not been ranked at all this season. However, they sit at #35 in the RPI, making them the second-highest team not to at least receive votes in this week's AVCA poll (#26 Arkansas).
As a team, Northwestern ranks 45th in the NCAA in assists (12.96), 55th in aces (1.43), 72nd in digs (16.25), 73rd in kills (13.52) and 91st in hitting percentage (.226). Their 16.25 digs per set rank second only to Iowa in the the Big Ten.
Individually, senior Madalyn Shalter ranks 10th in the nation with 11.67 assists per set, and junior outside Stephanie Holthus is 19th in the NCAA in kills (4.33) and 28th in points (4.83). Katie Dutchman ranks 23rd in the country with a .393 hitting percentage and leads the team with 67 blocks on the year.
ILLINI vs. THE WILDCATS
The Illini lead the all-time series with Northwestern, 48-27, including winning six of the last seven matchups. Illinois swept the Wildcats in both meetings of 2011, but fell, 3-0, at Northwestern on Nov. 5, 2010.
LAST TIME OUT
The Orange and Blue snapped a four-match skid on Saturday, with a 5-set comeback victory at No. 25 Michigan State. The Spartans took the first two sets, 25-18 and 25-23, before the Illini came roaring back to win 25-22, 25-16 and 15-8 and take the match, 3-2. It was the first time all season that the Illini had won a set after trailing 0-2. The last time the Illini had forced a fifth set after dropping the first two was a 3-2 victory over then-No. 20 Dayton in the Fighting Illini Classic on Sept. 3, 2011.
CHANGING THE SET
After the Illini fell into an uncommon four-match losing streak, Coach Hambly made a personnel change, starting freshman Alexis Viliunas over senior Annie Luhrsen at setter. Viliunas was on track to redshirt the season and take over setting duties next year, but in an effort to snap the skid and get the team where it needs to be, Viliunas entered the starting lineup on Oct. 13 at Michigan State.
Viliunas dazzled in her debut, keeping a calm sense of poise to lead the Illini all the way back from an 0-2 deficit to defeat the Spartans in five. The La Grange, Ill., native registered a double-double with 49 assists and 14 digs, went a perfect 3-for-3 on the attack, and stuffed a key block in the fifth to lead the Illini to victory. Viliunas was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week on Oct. 15 following her outstanding debut. She is the first Illinois freshman ever to earn a Big Ten weekly award for her first career appearance.
ILLINOIS RANKED FOR 70TH STRAIGHT WEEK
Illinois maintains its national ranking this week, checking in at No. 25 in the AVCA Top 25. The Illini have been ranked for 70 straight weeks dating back to the first week of 2008, when the Illini used opening-weekend wins over No. 23 New Mexico State and No. 11 Oregon to return the rankings for the first time since 2004.
Redshirt freshman Jocelynn Birks erupted for 14 kills in the third set at Michigan on Oct. 10, the most in a single set since before 2002. Birks topped Rachel VanMeter's 13 kills registered in the fourth set against APSU on Sept. 2, 2005. Single-set breakdowns are not available for the majority of matches prior to 2002.
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, ranking her fifth all-time in career digs entering the season (1,194). On Sept. 15, Beltran passed Lauren Harks ‘04 into fourth all time, when she recorded her first career double-double (11a, 18d) against Cincinnati. On Sept. 28, she vaulted over Mary Coleman '98 into third place, registering 12 digs at Indiana. One week later, on Oct. 5, Beltran passed Tracey Marshall '99 to move into second place, tabbing 25 digs against Ohio State. The junior libero has a ways to go before catching Ashley Edinger in the No. 1 spot (1,921), currently owning 1,491 career digs.
Additionally, Beltran is the active leader in the Big Ten in career digs, and sits in 21st all time in the conference.
JOHNSON BREAKS INTO BLOCKING TOP TEN
Senior middle blocker Erin Johnson has become one of Illinois' best blockers in school history, tabbing 24 solo blocks and 391 assists for a total of 415 blocks. She is currently tied for eighth in block assists, and broke into the top 10 against Penn State, with her 410th career block. She needs seven block assists and one total block to move up in each respective category. The Crystal Lake, Ill., native is the only active Big Ten player with 400+ career blocks.
The Northwestern match on Oct. 17 is Faculty/Staff Appeciation Night. Tickets are just $2 with your I-Card.
Men’s volleyball shares the stage with the women on Sunday Oct. 21. Following the nationally-televised match against Nebraska, two of the top men’s team in the nation square off as Lewis University meets Loyola (Chicago).
The Illini meet Purdue on Halloween night. Fans are encouraged to wear costumes to the match and participate in “spooktacular” events beforehand.
The Nov. 3 match against Indiana is Girl Scout Night. Whether or not they are scouts, girls eighth grade and below are invited to spend the night in the second annual lock-in following the match. Participants will enjoy dinner and activities, will sleep overnight at the University of Illinois facilities, then wake up to an exclusive breakfast with the entire volleyball team.
When the Illini football and volleyball teams are home on the same weekend, fans are once again able to use their ticket stub from the football game for admittance to volleyball. This offer is available on Sept. 23 (vs. Wisconsin) and Nov. 17 (vs. Michigan).
Pre-registration is required for the lock-in promotion. To register or for more information, please contact Carrie Snyder in marketing at firstname.lastname@example.org or 217-333-6969.