Birks Earns Third Big Ten Freshman of the Week Honor
Nov. 19, 2012
Park Ridge, Ill. – Redshirt freshman outside hitter Jocelynn Birks was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week this afternoon, following her explosive performances this weekend against Michigan and Michigan State. This is the third Big Ten Freshman of the Week honor for the Willow Springs, Ill., native, and the fourth overall weekly honor, after earning a Player of the Week nod along with the rookie honor on Sept. 17.
The last Illini player to earn four weekly selections in one season was Jennifer Beltran, who was awarded Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors four times in 2010. Birks takes home the fourth rookie honor for the Illini this season, with Alexis Viliunas earning the award on Oct. 15 after her Orange and Blue debut at Michigan State.
Birks averaged 5.22 kills per set this weekend against Michigan and Michigan State, totaling 47 in the pair of matches. She had 22 kills and four blocks against MSU, including two solo blocks. Though splitting time with Tayler Onion against Michigan on Senior Night, she managed to put up a career-high 25 kills to go along with 16 digs and two aces in the 4-set match. The outside hitter had at least five kills in every set against Michigan, including 15 through the final two, and tallied 5+ kills in seven of the eight full-length sets this week. The Lyons Township grad had one of her best defensive matches against Michigan, putting up 16 digs to contribute the Illini's season-high 77 team digs. She registered her 12th double-double and her 10th 20-kill match of the season on Saturday; only one Illini rookie has ever totaled more 20-kill matches in a season, as volunteer assistant Laura DeBruler, who holds the all-time career record (36), put together 15 20-kill matches in 2007.
The Big Ten awarded two Player of the Week honors this week, honoring outside hitters Stephanie Holthus of Northwestern and Mari Hole of Ohio State. Holthus averaged 5.6 kills on .375 hitting and 4.4 digs per set against Michigan and Michigan State, recording double-doubles in both games. She opened the weekend with a career-high 28 kills and 19 digs in a four-set win over the Wolverines, then notched 11 kills and 12 digs against the Spartans. Hole hit .317 with an average of 5.9 kills and 2.4 digs per set on the road at No. 21 Purdue and Indiana. She had a double-double in the 3-0 victory over Purdue, posting 17 kills and 10 digs, and registered 24 kills, seven digs and a block in the 4-set win over the Hoosiers.
Minnesota middle blocker Tori Dixon was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after leading the Golden Gophers’ defense in wins over No. 9 Nebraska (3-2) and Iowa (3-0). She tabbed 10 bocks on the weekend, averaging 1.3 per set, including seven against the Huskers. Additionally, she hit .457 for the weekend with an average of 3.5 kills per set.
The final weekly honor went to Penn State sophomore Micha Hancock, who garners her sixth Big Ten Setter of the Week nod. The Edmond, Okla., native helped the Nittany Lions clinch the 2012 Big Ten title with since over No. 21 Purdue and Indiana, averaging 10.4 assists, 2.0 digs, and 0.3 blocks per set. She tallied 35 assists, eight digs and two blocks against the Hoosiers and posted 38 assists and six digs against the Boilermakers. The sophomore led Penn State to a .452 hitting percentage against Indiana and a .317 clip against Purdue.