Seniors Rachel Feldman, Michelle Bartsch, Hannah Deterding and Colleen Ward will play their final two Big Ten matches at home against Northwstern and Iowa.
Nov. 22, 2011
#7 Illinois vs. Northwestern // Wednesday, Nov. 23 // Huff Hall // 7 p.m.
#7 Illinois vs. Iowa // Saturday, Nov. 26 // Huff Hall // 7 p.m. // "Senior Night"
Illinois Closes Regular Season vs. Northwestern, Iowa
No. 7 Illinois will wrap up the regular season with a pair of matches at Huff Hall against Northwestern on Wednesday at 7 p.m. and Iowa on Saturday at 7 p.m. The Illini, who own a 25-4 overall record, will enter the final week in a three-way tie for second place in the Big Ten with No. 8 Purdue and No. 9 Penn State at 14-4. Nebraska (16-2) has clinched at least a share of the Big Ten title with only road matches remaining against Iowa and Northwestern. The Boilermakers are slated to play at Indiana and Wisconsin while the Nittany Lions will travel to Ohio State and Michigan State for their final matches.
A pair of Illini victories would secure a third-straight runner-up finish in the conference and give Illinois its most wins in a season since 1992 when that squad won 32 games. The Orange and Blue can finish no worse than fourth in the Big Ten, as Michigan State is the fifth place team at 10-8. The Illini will then learn their NCAA Tournament fate on Sunday, Nov. 27 when the bracket is released.
Both matches air live on WDWS (AM 1400) with Dave Loane on the call. The audio stream also can be found on fightingillini.com (all-access) along with live stats via gametracker.
Notes on Northwestern
Northwestern enters the match in 10th place in the Big Ten at 6-12 and sits at 15-14 overall after dropping its last three matches.
The Wildcats lead the Big Ten in digs at 15.62 dps while also boasting the third-lowest opponent hitting percentage at .165 and ranking third in service aces at 1.25 per set.
The Illini swept Northwestern earlier this year at Welsh Ryan Arena with scores of 25-19, 25-23, 25-19. Senior Colleen Ward turned in the third 20-20 match by an Illini this season with 20 kills and 20 digs.
Illinois has won five of the last six matches against NU and own a 47-27 record all-time.
Iowa comes into the contest tied for last in the Big Ten with Indiana at 1-17 and owns an overall record of 11-20. The team's only conference win came against Indiana on Oct. 7.
Iowa is ranked 12th in the conference in four of seven statistical categories while also checking in at 11th in opponent hitting percentage (.213), ninth in service aces (1.06 aps) and fifth in digs (15.44 dps).
The Hawkeyes are the only Big Ten team Illinois has yet to face this season. They are the Illini's other single play along with Nebraska.
Illinois holds a 53-13 lead in the all-time series with Iowa and have won 11 consecutive meetings.
Four Illini to Be Recognized at Senior Night
Four Illini seniors, Michelle Bartsch, Hannah Deterding, Rachel Feldman and Colleen Ward, will be recognized on Saturday following the match as part of Senior Night.
Bartsch is a four-year starter and two-time All-American for the Illini, who have reached the NCAA Sweet 16 and finished in the top three in the Big Ten during each of her three seasons in Orange and Blue. She is seventh on Illinois' all-time kills list with 1,522 and also third in career attack attempts with 4,431.
Ward, who joined the Illini last season after transferring from Florida, was a second-team All-American and All-Big Ten selection in her first season, which saw the Orange and Blue reach the Sweet 16. She also owns Illinois' single-match ace record with nine.
Feldman is a three-year letterwinner for the Illini and has also been a part of all three Sweet 16 teams. She has been a solid contributor as a defensive specialist and set an Illinois record for most digs in an NCAA Tournament match with 26 as a sophomore.
Deterding joined the Illini as a junior in 2010 after spending her first two seasons playing at Eastern Illinois and Illinois Central College. She earned a varsity letter in her first season as an Illini last year.
NCAA Tournament Information
The NCAA selection show will be at 5 p.m. on Nov. 27 on ESPNU.
First and second round action will be held on campus sites on Dec. 1-4.
NCAA Regionals will be Dec. 9-10 at Gainesville, Fla., Honolulu, Hawaii, Lexington, Ky., and Minneapolis, Minn.
The national semifinals and finals are Dec. 15 & 17 in San Antonio, Texas.
Illinois will host an NCAA Regional in 2013 at Assembly Hall. Other 2013 Regional hosts are USC, Kentucky and Florida with the finals in Seattle.
In 2012, NCAA Regional sites will be Nebraska, Purdue, California and Texas with the finals in Louisville.
In 2014, NCAA Regionals will be in Minnesota, Washington, Iowa State and Louisville with the finals in Oklahoma City.
Illini Split Weekend Trip to Michigan
For the third year in a row, Illinois split its pair of matches in the state of Michigan. The Illini struggled offensively in a four-set loss to the Spartans before rebounding with a 3-1 victory over No. 23 Michigan. Against the Wolverines, Illinois hit over .300 for the fifth time in a Big Ten contest and matched their fewest errors in a four-set match this season with 10 while also holding a 12-2 blocking advantage. Senior Colleen Ward paced the Illini with a .419 attack percentage and 21 kills, just one shy of her season high, while freshman Liz McMahon (13) and junior Erin Johnson (8) also came up big with 21 combined kills and only one error for the Illini. Ward (21 kills, 10 digs) and Bartsch (15 kills, 11 digs) turned in their 16th and 17th double-doubles, respectively, of the year.
Lock-in Slated for Nov. 26
Following the match against Iowa on Nov. 26, the Illini will be hosting a youth lock-in. The $10 per person registration fee includes a ticket to the match, post-match activity and snack and an exclusive breakfast with the team on Sunday morning. All participants will be asked to provide their own sleeping materials and an adult guardian is required for every 10 children who register. Registration forms can be found by going to http://www.fightingillini.com/sports/w-volley/ill-w-volley-body.html and are due by Nov. 21. The contact is Carrie Snyder at firstname.lastname@example.org or 217-333-6969.
Illinois Continues to Lead the RPI
Illinois continues as the top team in the RPI, the computer ratings index, which is the rating that helps determine seeding for the NCAA Tournament. Below is the top 10:
1. Illinois (25-4)
2. Iowa State (22-4)
3. Nebraska (23-3)
4. Texas (20-4)
5. Purdue (25-4)
6. Northern Iowa (30-1)
7. Hawaii (26-1)
8. Florida State (24-5)
9. USC (24-4)
10. Minnesota (16-11)
Illini Remain No. 7 in Coaches Poll
Illinois checked in at No. 7 in the AVCA Coaches poll for the third week in a row. The Illini have spent the entire season inside the top eight, including four weeks at No. 1 -- Sept. 26-Oct. 17.
USC remained atop the poll after becoming the sixth different team to be ranked No. 1 this year a week ago. Illinois has been at the top spot for the most weeks. The Women of Troy, Penn State, California, Illinois, Nebraska and UCLA have all spent time in the top spot.
Despite seeing Ohio State drop out, the Big Ten still boasted six teams inside the top 25, including four of the top nine -- No. 2 Nebraska, No. 7 Illinois, No. 8 Purdue, No. 9 Penn State, No. 19 Minnesota and No. 22 Michigan. Non-conference foe Tennessee is No. 15 with Ohio State, Dayton, Michigan State, Tulsa, and Cincinnati receiving votes.
Illinois against Top-10 Teams
For the third-straight season, the Illini have defeated two top-10 opponents on the schedule, now with three top-10 wins overall. Illinois has seven wins over top-10 teams in the last three years -- #6 Michigan and #6 Minnesota in 2009, #2 Texas and #2 Penn State in 2010 and #9 Minnesota, #8 Penn State and #9 Penn State this year. That surpasses the combined total of top-10 wins from the previous 16 seasons, as Illinois had six top-10 wins from 1993-2008.
Ranked Foes All Over the Schedule
Illinois is 9-3 against ranked opponents so far this year. The Illini just completed a nine-week stretch in which the Orange and Blue played at least one ranked opponent each week.