Illinois will honor its four seniors Nicole Kump, Laura DeBruler, Hillary Haen and Johannah Bangert
Illini tied for first in the Big Ten
After splitting matches at Ohio State and Penn State last weekend, the Illini enter the final four matches of the season tied for first in the conference. The Illini and Penn State are both 13-3. The Illini take on Iowa (7 pm Friday) and Minnesota (4:30 pm Saturday) before traveling to Indiana and Purdue. Penn State hosts Ohio State and Northwestern before traveling to Iowa and Minnesota. The Illini are looking for their fifth Big Ten title and their first since 1992
Illinois shooting for record home win streak at Huff: Illinois enters the week riding a 21-match home court winning streak, which is the sixth best active streak in the country. It is also one off the Huff Hall record of 22 set from Oct. 19, 1991-Dec. 12, 1992. Stanford ended the streak in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. The overall Illinois record for home court winning streak is 33 from Sept. 23, 1987-Sept. 23, 1989 when the Illini played at Kenney Gym.
Illinois building home edge: Illinois is averaging 2,238 fans per match in 11 matches thus far. The Illini are on pace for their best home attendance year since averaging 2,414 in 1996.
The Illini had its first sellout since 1992 when 4,141 saw Illinois top Penn State in five sets on Sept. 24. The Illini also drew 3,127 for the Northwestern match on Oct. 2, also a five-set victory. That marked the first time since 1993 the Illini have drawn more than 3,000 for match twice in the same season.
Illinois is 11-0 at home this year and 38-4 in front of the home crowd the past three years combined. Two of the losses have come to No. 1 Penn State.
Assuming Illinois qualifies for the NCAA Tournament this year, in the years the Illini have qualified for the NCAA Tournament, they have a 241-45 home record (.843)
Seniors play last regular season games
Illinois will play its final regular season home matches this weekend, hosting Iowa and Minnesota. It will also mark the final home matches for seniors Johannah Bangert, Laura DeBruler, Hillary Haen and Nicole Kump as well as manager Emily Heikes.
Bangert led the nation in blocks the past two seasons and earlier this year became the all-time blocks leader at Illinois and needs 40 more block assists to become the all-time Big Ten career leader in that category. Bangert also ranks ninth all-time in total blocks in the Big Ten. A Pre-Season All-Big Ten selection, Bangert earned All-Big Ten and Honorable Mention All-America accolades in 2009. She was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week five times in her career, including once this season and was named to the All-Tournament Team at the Ameritas Players Challenge and State Farm Illini Classic this season. She is majoring in secondary education/mathematics.
DeBruler was First Team All-American in 2009 after earning second team All-America honors in 2008. The three-time All-Big Ten selection became the all-time Illinois career leader in kills (1,833) and attacks (4,806) earlier this season and finishes her career ranked seventh on the Illinois all-time digs list (1,117). She was named to 12 all-tournament teams in her career, including earning MVP of three of those tournaments, and earned Big Ten Player of the Week eight times. The Academic All-Big Ten honoree is majoring in psychology and plans to play professionally overseas.
Haen continues to lead the Big Ten and rank 18th nationally in assists (11.38 per set). She has been a four-year starter at setter and enters the weekend sixth on the Illini all-time assist list. Haen was an Honorable Mention All-American and Honorable Mention All-Midwest Selection in 2009. The All-Big Ten and Academic All-Big Ten selection was named MVP of this year's State Farm Illini Classic while also being named All-Tournament at the Ameritas Players Challenge and earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week on Aug. 30. Haen is majoring in accounting and finance.
Kump has been a spot starter at both middle blocker and right side hitter, playing in 147 sets and 59 matches in her career. The two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection had a career-high 10 kills vs. Iowa in 2007 and had a key kill and block in Illinois' NCAA second round win over Cincinnati in 2008. Kump is majoring in kinesiology.
Seniors bring Illinois back to national prominence
In the last four seasons, this season's senior class has won 89 matches and posted three straight 20-win seasons, marking the first time the Illini have accomplished that since the Illini did so six straight seasons from 1985-90.
The Illini have 19 victories over ranked opponents in the last four years and in 2010 defeated two top-five teams in the same season for the first time in school history, defeating No. 2 Texas and No. 2 Penn State. Illinois ended Penn State's Big Ten record 65-match conference winning streak which was played before the first sellout crowd in 18 seasons.
The Illini have advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 the past two seasons and are in the hunt for their first Big Ten title since 1992.
TV/Radio Info for this week
Saturday's match with Minnesota will be carried live on the Big Ten Network with Mike Wolf and Megan Bower on the call.
Friday's match with Iowa will be streamed live on bigtennetwork.com with Tim Ditman and Oscar Grajeda on the call.
Both matches can be heard live on fightingillini.com. Saturday's matchwill be live on WDWS (AM 1400) and WDAN (AM 1490). Friday's match will be taped delayed following men's basketball if the Illini are in the championship game of the 2K Sports Invitational. If they are playing for third place, the volleyball match will be carried live. Brian Moline and Mike Trame are on the call Friday with Dave Loane and Mike Trame on the call Saturday.
Illinois reversing five-set fortunes
Illinois lost its first two five-set matches of the season, both after taking the first two sets, falling to Cincinnati and No. 7 Nebraska. Since then, the Illini have rattled off five straight victories in matches that have gone the distance, defeating No. 2 Penn State, No. 25 Northwestern, Michigan State, No. 20 Minnesota, and No. 15 Michigan.
Of the 13 league victories, only four have come in straight sets
NCAA Tournament Information
The parings for the NCAA volleyball tournament will be unveiled on Sunday, Nov. 28 between 2-2:30 pm CST on ESPN News.
Illinois has put a bid in to host first and second round matches. If the Illini host, the dates will be Friday, Dec. 3 at 4:30 and 7 pm (first round matches) and Saturday, Dec. 4 at 7 pm (second round).
Regionals will be Dec. 10-11 at Dayton, Penn State, Texas and Washington.
The Final Four is Dec. 16 & 18 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.
Bonilla on pace to break Illinois single-season digs record
Freshman libero Jennifer Bonilla has 492 digs on the season, which already is fourth-best in a single-season in school history and she is on pace to break the single-season digs mark of 564 held by Ashley Edinger
DeBruler a finalist for Lowe's Senior CLASS
Illinois senior Laura DeBruler is one of 10 finalists for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award for volleyball. The honor is given to a student-athlete who excels both on and off the court. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence - community, classroom, character and competition.
An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School®, the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities.
The finalists were chosen by a media committee from the list of 30 candidates that was announced in August. Nationwide fan voting begins immediately to determine the winner. Fans are encouraged to vote via the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award website through November 23. Fan votes will be combined with media and coaches votes to determine the winner.
Lowe's will announce the Senior CLASS Award® winner during the 2010 NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Championship in Kansas City in mid-December.
Illinois remain ninth in poll
Illinois remained ninth in the AVCA Coaches poll this week. Illinois has been in the top 10 all season, topping at No. 3 on Sept. 6. Opponents in the rankings are Nebraska (5), Penn State (7), Texas (8), Dayton (13), Cincinnati (18), Minnesota (19), Michigan (20) and Northwestern (25). Purdue, Middle Tennessee and Ohio State are getting votes.
Bangert moving up Big Ten blocks lists
Johannah Bangert, who became Illinois' all-time blocks leader now is moving up a pair of Big Ten lists. With her six blocks vs. Michigan State, Bangert becomes just the 10th player in conference history with at least 600 blocks, totaling now 613.
Bangert has 573 career block assists, just 39 shy of the Big Ten record of 612 held by Heather Dodaro of Wisconsin
Bangert holds the conference single-season block assist record when she tallied 195 during the 2008 season. Her 168 blocks in 2009 are seventh best.
Haen moves up Illinois career assists list
Hillary Haen has moved into sixth on Illinois' all-time assist list, entering the week with 3,612.
Illinois has participated in 18 NCAA Tournaments in its history, including 11 Sweet 16 appearances. The Illini are looking to go further this year. The last time Illinois reached the Regional Final was 1992 and the Illini were in the Final Four in both 1987 and 1988.