Notes: Illini Head to No. 2 PSU, No. 15 OSU
Nov. 6, 2012
No. 2 Penn State Nittany Lions (23-2, 13-1 Big Ten)
Radio: Illini Radio Network Dave Loane and Marla Glasser
WDWS 1400 AM in Champaign Online
No. 15 Ohio State Buckeyes (18-8, 9-5 Big Ten)
ILLINI vs. THE NITTANY LIONS
The Nittany Lions have the best winning percentage against the Illini out of all Illinois' opponents, owning a 38-9 record against the Orange and Blue. However, just three teams have defeated Penn State more than nine times: Pittsburgh, Ohio State and Nebraska; Pittsburgh has defeated the Nittany Lions the most times, going 17-30 against them, but their last victory over PSU was in 1987, since which time Penn State has won 14-straight matches.
Penn State has an unprecedented record at home, setting an NCAA Division I women's record with a 94-match home winning streak from Sept. 1, 2006, to Dec. 11, 2010. Oregon handed PSU a home loss in the 2011 season opener to snap the streak, and the Nittany Lions have lost at Rec Hall just once since then--to Illinois, 3-2, on Oct. 8, 2011. Penn State has won 19-straight matches at home since the loss to the Illini.
Penn State has lost just 17 times since the start of 2007, with three of those losses coming to Illinois, including both matchups of 2011. Stanford and Nebraska each also have three wins over the Nittany Lions in the past five seasons, with the Huskers handing Penn State its most recent loss on Oct. 28 in a 5-set match in Lincoln.
The Illini had an upset bid fall short over then-No. 1 Penn State earlier this season on Oct. 6. The Illini won the first set, 25-23, but Penn State then took a 2-1 lead with 25-18 and 25-21 victories in the next two frames. The Illini evened the match with a 26-24 win in the fourth, and reached match point, up 14-10 in the fifth, before the Nittany Lions won five-straight points to reach their own match point and finished out the 3-2 win with an 18-16 victory in the fifth.
ILLINI vs. THE BUCKEYES
Illinois is 35-37 all-time against the Buckeyes, going 12-14 in Columbus. The Illini had won nine-straight matches against OSU, dating back to the start of 2008, including a 3-1 victory in the 2011 Sweet Sixteen, but dropped a tough, 5-set match to the Buckeyes in Huff earlier this season on Oct. 5. The Illini won the first two sets, but OSU came all the way back to win it in five, with a 15-12 victory in the tiebreaker. It is the only time this season that the Orange and Blue have lost after leading 2-0.
ILLINOIS, PSU HAVE STREAKY HISTORY
Penn State and Illinois tabbed the top five Big Ten winning streaks of all time. The Nittany Lions hold the record with 65 consecutive conference victories, from Nov. 11, 2006, to Sept. 18, 2010, a record which was snapped at Illinois on Sept. 24, 2010. PSU has the second-longest (49, 1997-99), and third-longest (41, 2004-06) streaks, and the Illini hold the fourth (40, 1985-87) and fifth longest (25, 1992-93). Penn State defeated Illinois, 3-0, on Oct. 9, 1993, to end what was then the second-longest Big Ten streak, before subsequently earning the top three.
LAST TIME OUT
The Orange and Blue earned a much-needed win over Indiana at home on Saturday, claiming a 3-1 (25-22, 25-17, 22-25, 25-18) victory over the Hoosiers. Jocelynn Birks hit .392 with 23 kills, both Big Ten personal-bests, and Erin Johnson tied her season high with nine blocks. The Illini out-hit the Hoosiers, .299-.105, and out-blocked them 15-8 including putting up seven in the fourth set alone.
ON THE BIG SCREEN
The Illini have appeared on local, regional and national television 146 times since 1988, compiling an 84-62 (.575) overall record. Nationally, Illinois is 33-29, including 7-10 on ESPN/ESPN2 and 10-13 on the Big Ten Network. The Illini are 1-5 on television this season, defeating Texas on the Longhorn Network, but losing to Minnesota, Purdue (twice) and Michigan on BTN and Nebraska on ESPN2.
BIRKS EARNS SECOND BIG TEN FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK HONOR ON NOV. 5
Jocelynn Birks was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week on Nov. 5 after leading the Illini to a 3-1 victory over Indiana. I marked the second time she was named Freshman of the Week, and the third Freshman of the Week honor for the Illini this season. Birks hit .392 against Indiana with 23 kills, five digs and four blocks, and had a double-double against No. 22 Purdue on Oct. 31 with 15 kills and 10 digs. Additionally, she tabbed a team-best four aces on the week, including three against the Boilermakers.
The Illini have found themselves in a tie-breaking fifth set 10 times in 23 matches this season. Seven of their 14 Big Ten matches have gone to five, and six of their 10 home matches have needed five sets to establish a winner. Illinois is 4-6 overall, 3-4 in the Big Ten, and 2-4 at home in 5-set matches.
The Illini have only had more 5-set matches once, going 7-4 in 11 five-setters in 2000. The Illini also had 10 five-set matches in 2007, going 1-9 in the tie-breaking set. Illinois' record for 5-set wins in a season is seven, set in 2000 and matched in 2011 (7-0). The Illini's nine 5-set losses in 2007 were the most in school history.
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 needed 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.
Viliunas and Luhrsen split time at Wisconsin on Oct. 26, with Viliunas starting the match and playing the majority of the first and third sets, and Luhrsen playing the second and fourth sets. Luhrsen returned to the starting lineup at Minnesota on Oct. 28, where she has remained ever since. The Illini are 9-11 with Luhrsen starting and 2-2 when Viliunas starts.
Additionally, Beltran is the active leader in the Big Ten in career digs, and sits in 15th 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 411 assists for a total of 435 blocks. She is currently in sixth place all-time in block assists and ranks ninth in total blocks. She needs two block assists to move into fifth, and 16 total to catch up to Michelle Bartsch '11. The Crystal Lake, Ill., native is the only active Big Ten player with 400+ career blocks.