No. 25 Illinois hosts Northwestern, Wisconsin
Nov. 2, 2004
Champaign, Ill. -
THE WEEK AHEADNov. 5 vs. Wisconsin
7 p.m., Huff Hall, Champaign, Ill.
Radio: Illini Sports Network
(Dave Loane & Steve Layman)
Nov. 6 vs. Northwestern
The skinny on Illinois:Illini solid fifth in the Big Ten: Illinois enters the week in fifth place, two games behind fourth-place Wisconsin and two games ahead of sixth-place Michigan.
Poll watching: Illinois is hanging in the polls, at No. 25 this weekend after splitting matches at Michigan State and Michigan. The Illini have been ranked all season, starting at No. 19. Illinois reached as high as No. 9 on Sept. 13 after defeating No. 1 USC. For the complete week-by-week ranking, see page 4.
Top Ten Conquerors Again: On Sept. 11, Illinois knocked off the No. 1 team in the nation in USC, a team that had won 52 straight. Since that time the Illini lost senior All-American setter Erin Virtue for the year with an ACL injury, and starting middle blocker Jen Hynds missed the next eight matches. The Illini have had to get used to playing with a new setter and has lost a few matches since then. However, the Illini proved they can still play with and defeat the nation's best as the Illini downed #7 and previously unbeaten Ohio State in three games on Oct. 23.
The victory over the Buckeyes marked the second win over a Top Ten team this year, the first time Illinois has accomplished that feat since 1995 when the Illini defeated #8 Penn State and #9 Ohio State in successive matches. The last time Illinois won three matches over Top Ten teams was 1992 -- #3 Hawaii, #5 Nebraska, #9 Penn State, and #7 Nebraska (Sweet 16), the Illini advanced to the Elite Eight.
Serving bench mark for Illini: Illinois has led the Big Ten this season in service aces. The Illini have 130 aces for a 1.67 aces per game average, just ahead of Ohio State (1.65). The Illini have allowed half as many -- 64 aces (0.82), third in the Big Ten.
The Illini are also 23rd in the nation in assists per game (15.13). VanMeter rising: Rachel VanMeter continues to put forth big numbers against high ranked opponents. VanMeter had 22 kills and hit .286 at #2 Minnesota and had 19 kills while hitting .533 vs. #7 Ohio State. Last year some of her best performances came against the nation's best as well, posting the game-winning kills vs. #20 Minnesota, #11 Penn State and highly-regarded Wisconsin.
Ms. Double-Double -- Rasa Virsilaite has proven to be Illinois' most complete player as she has contributed both as a hitter and a back-row player. Virsilaite has six double-doubles this year.
SERIES NOTES:Wisconsin Series: Illinois holds a 36-24-1 lead in the all-time series and despite the recent string, the Illini are 13-12-1 all-time in Madison, while winning 16 of 26 meetings in Champaign. Illinois won 12 straight from Wisconsin from 1984-89. The Badgers are 16-4 vs. Illinois since 1994.
Illinois put forth one of its most impressive performances in Champaign in a 30-19, 30-26, 34-32 victory in front of a season-best 2,438 fans last year. The Badgers defeated Illinois 3-1 on Oct. 3 in Madison.
Northwestern Series: Illinois holds a commanding 39-21 lead in the series, including a 15-4 edge under Don Hardin. Illinois won both meetings last season, winning 16-30, 30-21, 30-15, 30-27 in Evanston and 30-22, 30-28, 30-27 in Champaign. The Illini won 30-21, 30-17, 30-27 on Oct. 1 in Evanston. Thus after dropping game one in Evanston last year, the Illini have out-scored the Wildcats 270-205 the last three matches.