Notes: Final Illini Homestand Features Michigan State, Michigan
Nov. 15, 2012
Michigan State Spartans (21-7, 9-7 Big Ten)
TV: BTN.com (Student U) Max Tane and Jamal Collier
Michigan Wolverines (21-9, 9-7 Big Ten)
The Illini are 45-23 all time against Michigan State, and 22-7 at home. Illinois won the first 12 straight home matches against the Spartans, from 1977 to 1994, before dropping a 5-0 decision to the Spartans on Oct. 6, 1995, in a match with experimental TV scoring.
The Orange and Blue defeated Michigan State, 3-2, earlier this season on Oct. 13. Illinois dropped the first two sets, 25-18 and 25-23, but then stormed back to win the final three frames, 25-22, 25-16, 15-8, to snap a four-match skid. Alexis Viliunas made her first appearance for the Illini in the match, starting at setter.
ILLINI vs. THE WOLVERINES
Illinois is 43-20 all time against the Wolverines, and 23-5 at home. The Orange and Blue had won seven of the last eight matches against Michigan when they travelled to Ann Arbor earlier this season on Oct. 10. The Wolverines dominated the Illini in their first mid-week match of the season, defeating Illinois, 3-0 (25-16, 25-19, 26-24).
LAST TIME OUT
The Orange and Blue played one of their best defensive matches of the year last Saturday at No. 15 Ohio State, but came up just short, falling, 3-2 (25-23, 16-25, 25-23, 16-25, 17-15). The Illini won the second and fourth sets 25-16, but watched a pair of match points (14-13, 15-14) get erased, as the Buckeyes eked out their second 5-set victory this season.
Julia Conard dazzled in the back row, nearly doubling her career high with 17 digs, and Anna Dorn hit .526 with 12 kills. Liz McMahon led the team with 20 kills and five blocks, and Erin Johnson put up another five block assists. Annie Luhrsen tabbed a season-high 63 assists, and earned her 17th career double-double with a personal-best 15 digs.
ON THE BIG SCREEN
The Illini have appeared on local, regional and national television 147 times since 1988, compiling an 84-63 (.571) overall record. Nationally, Illinois is 33-30, including 7-10 on ESPN/ESPN2 and 10-14 on the Big Ten Network. The Illini are 1-6 on television this season, defeating Texas on the Longhorn Network, but losing to Minnesota, Purdue (twice), Michigan and Penn State 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 11 times this season. Eight of their 16 Big Ten matches have gone to five, and six of their 10 home matches have needed five sets to establish a winner. Illinois is 4-7 overall, 3-5 in the Big Ten, and 2-4 at home in 5-set matches.
The 11 five-setters ties the Illinois program record, after the Illini went 7-4 in five-setters in 2000. The last time the Illini had double-digit 5-set matches was in 2007, when Illinois went 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 9-13 with Luhrsen starting and 2-2 when Viliunas starts.
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 1,614 career digs. In addition to the career charts, she is currently working her way up the season list for a third time, tabbing 420 digs in 2012.
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 26 solo blocks and 429 assists for a total of 455 blocks. She is currently in fourth place all-time in block assists and ranks seventh in total blocks, just one shy of Betsy Spicer '00 in sixth. She needs 13 block assists to move into third in BA. The Crystal Lake, Ill., native is also the active Big Ten leader in career digs.
ILLINOIS HAS BEST FIRST WEEK CROWD
Illinois played Iowa State on Aug. 31 in front of the best opening night crowd in school history, where 3,770 fans filled Huff Hall. The Illini drew 3,269 the following afternoon. Those were the 10th- and 17th-best crowds, respectively, of all-time at Huff Hall.
Through the first 12 weeks of competition, the Illini rank eighth in the nation in home attendance, with an average of 2,878 fans per match.
Six of the top 10 teams attendance-wise are members of the Big Ten in Nebraska (2), Minnesota (3), Penn State (4), Wisconsin (5), Illinois (8) and Purdue (9).
The Illini have pulled a total of 28,776 fans over 10 home matches in 2012, for an average of 2,878 per match, which is second only to the 1992 season, when the Illini set a then-NCAA record for season attendance.
Illinois was 16-1 at home in 2011 and is 61-12 in front of the home crowd since the start of 2008. 11 of the 12 losses came to teams in the top 25, including three to No. 1 Penn State.
In the years the Illini have qualified for the NCAA Tournament, they have a 258-47 home record (.846).
Illinois is 22-3 all-time at home during the NCAA Tournament.
ILLINOIS HAS FORMIDABLE SCHEDULE
Illinois plays 13 different teams (eight of them twice) that made the 2011 NCAA Tournament. Of those, 12 advanced to the second round, eight reached the Sweet 16 and three were in the Elite Eight. In total, the Illini play 14 matches against Sweet 16 teams.
The schedule features 14 matches against teams ranked in this week's top 25, having already played 15 matches against teams ranked at the time of the match. Those currently-ranked opponents are No. 2 Penn State, No. 3 Texas, No. 9 Nebraska, No. 10 Louisville, No. 12 Dayton, No. 14 Minnesota, No. 15 Ohio State, No. 19 Iowa State and No. 21 Purdue. Additionally three of the Illini's opponents received votes in the most recent poll, with this weekend's opponents ranking 31st (MSU) and 32nd (MICH) and Pepperdine dropping out of the rankings to 28th.
The Illini faced at least one ranked opponent in each of the first 12 weeks of the season. This weekend marks the first time that the Orange and Blue will not face a ranked opponent, but both teams did receive votes in this weeks poll to rank 31st and 32nd.
The Illini's schedule features four of the top five teams in the RPI, in #2 Penn State, #3 Texas, #4 Nebraska and #5 Louisville. The Illini went 1-5 against them, with a win at #3 Texas.
Of Illinois' 18 opponents, five are in the RPI top 10, 10 in the top 30, and 13 in the top 50. #185 UCF is the Illini's only non-conference opponent outside of the top 100.
14 of Illinois' 15 losses have come to teams in the RPI top 35, and four of the Illini's 11 wins were over top 50 teams, including a 3-2 victory at #3 Texas.