Illini Complete First Half of Conference Play at No. 16 Wisconsin
ILLINOIS VS. THE BADGERS
The Fighting Illini are 46-31-1 all-time against Badgers, although Wisconsin holds a slight edge at home, as Illinois is 15-18-1 all-time in Madison. Illinois split the season series in 2012, as the Illini earned their first Big Ten win of the year in five sets at home on Sept. 23, but the Badgers took the rematch in four on Oct. 26.
Prior to the Illini's road loss, the Orange and Blue had won nine straight matches. However, before the 9-match winning streak, Illinois had lost six straight, all to top-15 squads from 2005-07.
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 an NCAA-leading nine teams in the RPI top 25 and 16 of their 19 matches were against teams in the top 50. Illinois' opponents Texas (3), Penn State (7) and Wisconsin (10) are also in the SOS top 10.
Based on this week's AVCA Coaches Poll, the Illini face six of the top 10 teams, 15 of the top 25, and have 24 (of 30) matches against teams that are receiving votes.
Of Illinois' 21 opponents, 19 appeared in at least one poll, including all nine of the Illini's non-conference competition. Only Iowa and Indiana have been left out of every poll, while Long Beach State and Northwestern have received votes but have not made it into the top 25.
Huff Hall will be the site of many great competitions, as five top-10 teams will come to Champaign. The Illini opened the home season in style with visits by then-No. 2 Texas and No. 6 Washington, who are now ranked No. 1 and No. 3, respectively. Illinois hosted then-No. 4 Penn State on Oct. 18, and is awaiting visits by No. 7 Minnesota (Nov. 30) and No. 10 Michigan State (Nov. 9).
The Illini have faced 13 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, and was stunned again by No. 4 Penn State who came back to win 3-2 on Oct. 18. The Illini then took down No. 17 Ohio State on Oct. 20 for a season record of 5-8 against ranked teams.
According to this week's RPI, Illinois will face 10 of the top 25 teams and have just two opponents ranked outside the top 100. The Illini dropped close matches to #1 Texas and #2 Penn State in five and lost to #6 Washington, 3-1.
Based on the RPI, Illinois' best victory came over #18 Kentucky (3-2), with six of the Illini's eight victories coming over teams ranked in the top 50. Alternately, eight of Illinois' 11 losses were to teams in the top 25.
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.
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 seventh in the nation among active players and the active Big Ten leader, ranking sixth 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 151 times over its history. The Illini are 87-64 all-time on the small screen, including 33-38 on national TV. On Oct. 5, Illinois pulled out an exciting comeback 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 11-16 on the Big Ten network and 1-2 on television in 2013, having lost to No. 12 Nebraska and No. 4 Penn State at home.
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 3,374 fans, which is nearly 300 higher than its best season ever.
Illinois is 3-4 at home this season, with all four losses coming to teams in the top 15. The Illini are 65-17 in front of a home crowd since the start of 2008. 15 of the 17 losses came to teams in the top 25, including three to No. 1 Penn State.
So far in 2013, Illinois ranks fifth in the nation in average attendance (3,374). Five of the top 10 teams attendance-wise are Big Ten teams: Nebraska (1), Minnesota (4), Illinois (5), Wisconsin (6), Penn State (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 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.