Michelle Bartsch and the Illini are hoping for a deeper run in this year's tournament.
Illinois hosts NCAA First & Second Rounds
The University of Illinois will serve as host of the NCAA Volleyball First and Second Round matches at Huff Hall. Illinois, who finished the regular season 27-4 and tied for second in the Big Ten, will host Central Michigan, the Mid-American Conference Tournament winner. The Chippewas finished the regular season 19-13 and are one of four teams from the MAC to make the field.
The Illini and CMU will face-off at 7 pm on Friday, Dec. 2. The other first-round match-up features Western Kentucky (31-3) and Marquette (23-10) at 4:30 p.m. The winners meet in the second round on Saturday, Dec. 3 at 7 p.m.
Live stats: Will be available through Gametracker HERE
Live audio: Illinois games will be aired on WDWS (AM-1400) with Dave Loane and Mike Trame on the call.
Live video: All Illinois matches will streamed live free of charge at btn2go.com. Spencer Turkin and Oscar Grajeda are on the call for the Illinois-Central Michigan match with Mario Gonzalez and Oscar Grajeda on the call for the second round match if Illinois is involved. All other matches will be streamed live at http://www.ncaa.com/interactive-bracket/volleyball-women/d1/2011
Blog: Mike Koon will be providing a live blog via fightingillini.com throughout the tournament.
Tickets: All-session tickets can be purchased at the University of Illinois Athletic Ticket Office or by calling 866-Illini-1. Ticket prices are $16 for reserved seats, $12 for general admission or $8 for student/youth general admission. Single-session tickets will only be available at the door and are $8 for the general public and $6 for students/youth.
Parking: Due to heavy rains in the Champaign area, it is unlikely that the grass lot to the south of Huff Hall will be available. A limited number of spaces are available in the paved lot east of the building after 4 p.m. on Friday. The Division of Intercollegiate Athletics is providing free parking at the Northeast Assembly Hall lot with a free ADA shuttle to Huff. Fans can also park at any other campus lot after 4 p.m.
Practice Day Thursday: All four teams will hold an open practice for fans at Huff on Thursday. Marquette practices from 12-1:30 pm; Western Kentucky from 1:45-3:15 pm; Illinois from 3:30-5 pm and Central Michigan from 5:15-6:45 pm
Illini earn No. 3 seed in the tournament The Illini are the top seed in the Gainesville, Fla., Bracket. The semifinals of that regional on the University of Florida campus are Friday Dec. 9 at 4 and 6 p.m. CT with the championship shown live on ESPNU HD at 6 p.m. on Saturday Dec. 10. The National Semifinals are Dec. 15 at 6 and 8:30 p.m. CT in San Antonio, Texas, with the championship game also at the Alamodome on Dec. 17 at 7:30 p.m. Those matches will be shown live on ESPN2.
The other seeded teams in the Gainesville bracket are No. 6 Northern Iowa, No. 11 Stanford and No. 14 Tennessee. Illinois could meet Tennessee in a possible regional semifinal. The Illini defeated the Lady Vols in four sets at the this year's State Farm Illini Classic.
The top four national seeds are No. 1 Texas, who will compete in the Lexington, Ky., Regional; No. 2 Nebraska, who will compete in the Honolulu Regional; No. 3 Illinois in the Gainesville, Fla., Regional, and No. 4 Iowa State in the Minneapolis Regional. This marks the highest national seed for the Illini.
Big Ten tops field with eight bids; 14 Illini opponents invited to the tournament
Illinois played 21 matches against 14 teams who advanced to the tournament, including a tournament-leading eight from the Big Ten. The Big 12 and the Pac-12 each advanced seven teams to the post-season. Of those eight Big Ten teams, five received national seeds, including three in the top five - No. 2 Nebraska, No. 3 Illinois, No. 5 Purdue, No. 8 Penn State and No. 13 Minnesota. Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State also received at-large bids. The other Illinois opponents who made the field were Dayton, Louisville, Cincinnati, Middle Tennessee, Tennessee, and Tulsa.
Illinois Tournament history
Illinois is participating in its 20th NCAA Tournament in its history, including 12 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.
This is the fourth straight year that Illinois has been a national seed and the highest for the Illini since seeding began in 1998. The Illini were the No. 9 seed in 2008, the No. 5 seed in 2009 and the No. 8 seed in 2010. Illinois has reached the Sweet 16 in 1985, `86, `87, `88, `89, `92, `95, `98, 2003, `08, `09, and `10.
Illinois familiar to hosting NCAA
This is the 15th year that Illinois has hosted NCAA First and Second Round Matches, including the fourth in a row.
Illinois is 22-3 all-time at home during the NCAA Tournament with the only losses coming to Stanford in the 1992 Regional Final, Ball State in the 1994 first round and Arizona in the 2001 second round.
Illinois to host NCAA Regional in 2013
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.
Illinois leads final regular season RPI
Illinois finishes the regular season No. 1 in RPI. Here are the top 10 plus Illinois opponents and the four teams in Champaign this week:
Team Record 1. Illinois 27-4 2. Texas 22-4 3. Iowa State 22-5 4. Nebraska 24-4 5. UNI 32-1 6. Purdue 27-4 7. Hawaii 29-1 8. USC 25-4 9. Tennessee 27-3 10. Florida State 24-6 11. Penn State 23-7 12. Minnesota 18-11 19. Cincinnati 26-9 21. Western Kentucky 31-3 23. Michigan 20-12 24. Tulsa 27-6 36. Dayton 25-6 37. Michigan State 21-11 38. Louisville 23-8 40. Marquette 23-10 45. Middle Tennessee 21-11 48. Ohio State 19-14 53. UC-Santa Barbara 19-12 55. St. Mary's 17-12 58. Wisconsin 16-16 59. BYU 21-9 61. Houston 19-11 74. Central Michigan 19-13 81. Northwestern 16-15 104. Cal Poly 12-17 143. Indiana 9-23 144. Iowa 11-22
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.
Best Seasons in School History
Illinois has a 27-4 overall record, in the midst of one its best seasons ever. Here is a look at the seasons with the fewest losses in school history:
1985 -- 39-3 1986 -- 36-3 1988 -- 30-4 1992 -- 32-4 2009 -- 26-6 1987 -- 31-7 2003 -- 26-7 1989 -- 27-8 2008 -- 26-8
Central Michigan making first NCAA appearance
Illinois' first-round opponent, Central Michigan, is making its first NCAA appearance. The Chippewas finish the season 19-13 and were the sixth seed in the Mid-American Conference Tournament. CMU defeated No. seed 3 Western Michigan, No. 2 seed Ohio and No. 1 seed Northern Illinois to win the crown.
The Mid-American Conference has four teams in the field with Northern Illinois, Western Michigan and Ball State joining CMU.
Illinois and Central Michigan have one common opponent, Iowa. The Chippewas dropped a five-set decision to the Hawkeyes in the season opener. Illinois defeated Iowa in four sets in the last match of the regular season.
Illinois is 2-4 all-time against Central Michigan, though the teams haven't met since 1982. CMU, who has won three straight in the series, is making its first appearance in Champaign.
Western Kentucky making NCAA home at Huff
For the second straight year and third time in the last four years, Western Kentucky is starting the season in Champaign with WKU looking for its first win. In 2008, the Hilltoppers fell to Cincinnati in five sets. In 2010, WKU also faced the Bearcats, with UC winning 3-0.
This is WKU's six appearance overall. The Hilltoppers are one of two Sun Belt teams in the field, joining Middle Tennessee. The Illini defeated MTSU in Murfreesboro in straight sets on Sept. 9.
Illinois and Western Kentucky have never met.
Big East Coach of the Year brings Marquette to Huff
Marquette received an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament after tying for second in the Big East. Head Coach Bond Shymansky was named Big East Coach of the Year while setter Chelsea Heier earned the league's freshman of the year.
Marquette has won 45 matches in the last two years combined, the most in the history of the program.
The Golden Eagles are making their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament and are one of three Big EAST teams in the field, joining Louisville and Cincinnati.
Illinois and Marquette have five common opponents. The Golden Eagles defeated Iowa, 3-1, on Aug. 27 and split with Middle Tennessee, winning 3-1 on Sept. 16 in Milwaukee and falling at MTSU 3-0 on Oct. 11. Marquette lost to Minnesota, 3-2, on Sept. 18, at Cincinnati, 3-1 on Nov. 5 and at Louisville, 3-0, on Nov. 6.
Illinois is 2-0 all-time against Marquette, winning 3-0 in Milwaukee in 2005 and 3-0 at the 2007 State Farm Illini Classic.
Big Ten honors four Illini with postseason honors
For the second year in a row, Illinois senior outside hitters Michelle Bartsch and Colleen Ward have been named All-Big Ten. Right side hitter Liz McMahon was named to the All-Freshman team while senior defensive specialist Rachel Feldman was Illinois' representative on the conference's Sportsmanship Team.
Bartsch earned MVP honors for three tournaments - the BYU/Nike Invitational, the State Farm Illini Classic and the Big Ten/Big East Challenge. She ranks seventh on the Illinois career kills list with 1,550 and is tied for second in career attacks with 4,511. Her 398 digs this season are the eighth most by an Illinois player in a single-season. Bartsch, who was named Big Ten co-Player of the Week on Sept. 26, became just the sixth Illinois player with multiple 20-20 performances when she did so in back-to-back days (vs. Tennessee and Dayton). The Maryville, Ill., native ranks sixth in the Big Ten in both kills (3.86 per set) and points (4.42 per set).
Ward also has topped the 1,500 kills mark for her career, combining her numbers at both Florida and Illinois. She was named to the all-tournament team at both the BYU/Nike Invitational and the State Farm Illini Classic. She has had double-digits in kills in 27 of 31 matches with 18 double-doubles. Ward ranks seventh in the conference in kills at 3.66 per set and eighth in the league in points (4.10). The Naperville, Ill., native had 20 kills and 20 digs in a straight sets victory over Northwestern, marking just the second time in Illinois history that a player has had a 20-20 performance in a three-set match.
McMahon was named to the all-tournament team at the Big Ten/Big East Challenge and had 25 kills and 14 blocks while hitting .426 at the Middle Tennessee State Invitational. She is hitting .281 with 209 kills and 102 blocks in her freshman campaign. She had a career-high 20 kills and seven blocks while hitting .576 in the five-set win at Louisville and a career-best 11 block assists in the win against No. 20 Michigan.
Feldman has been a three-year regular at libero and defensive specialist, playing in 84 career matches for the Illini. The three-time Academic All-Big Ten performer has 561 career digs. She has saved her best performances for the post-season, posting a season-best 13 digs vs. Cincinnati in the NCAA second round a year ago and setting an Illini record for digs in an NCAA match when she tallied 26 in a second round win over Dayton in 2009.
NCAA Attendance Leaders
Team Total Dates Avg. 1 Hawaii 129,940 20 6,497 2 Nebraska 64,002 14 4,572 3 Minnesota 47,896 12 3,791 4 Wisconsin 49,281 13 3,791 5 Penn St. 49,515 15 3,301 6 Texas 36,321 13 2,794 7 Florida 44,116 17 2,595 8. Washington 33,187 13 2,553 9. Wichita St. 27,797 11 2,527 10. Illinois 37,901 15 2,527
Illinois top all-time volleyball crowds
Opponent Date 1. 7,632 Minnesota* 10/16/2009 2. 4,316 Stanford$ 12/11/1992 3. 4,261 Purdue 10/1/2011 4. 4,211 Ohio State$ 12/3/1992 5. 4,141 Penn State 9/24/2010 6. 4,050 Ohio State 10/18/1991 4,050 Penn State 11/27/1992 8. 4,021 Michigan St. 10/15/2011 9. 3,905 Penn State 11/11/2011 10. 3,513 Michigan St. 10/24/1992 11. 3,497 Penn State 10/15/1993 12. 3,419 Purdue 11/13/1992 13. 3,391 Ohio State 11/12/2011 14. 3,386 Michigan 10/23/1992 15. 3,269 Indiana 11/14/1992 $ NCAA Tourney; * At Assembly Hall
Illinois' top all-time yearly volleyball attendance
Total (Average) Year Record 1. 52,666 (3,098) 1992 16-1 2. 34,539 (2,657) 1993 11-3 3. 37,901 (2,527) 2011 14-1 4. 31,381 (2,414) 1996 8-5 5. 32,856 (2,347) 1995 10-4 6. 31,391 (2,242) 1991 13-1 7. 33,279 (2,108) 1988 16-0 8. 29,480 (2,106) 2009 14-1 9. 30,646 (2,043) 2010 14-1
Illinois career digs list
1. 1,921 Ashley Edinger 2006-09 2. 1,426 Tracey Marshall 1996-99 3. 1,393 Mary Coleman 1995-98 4. 1,346 Lauren Harks 2001-04 5. 1,172 Beth Vrdsky 2003-06 6. 1,133 Sandy Scholtens 1985-88 7. 1,117 Laura DeBruler 2007-10 8. 1,092 Mary Eggers 1985-88 9. 1,073 Jennifer Beltran 2010- 10. 1,003 Petra Laverman 1988-90
Illinois single-season digs list
1. 623 Jennifer Beltran 2010 2. 564 Ashley Edinger 2007 3. 562 Ashley Edinger 1008 4. 520 Beth Vrdsky 2005 5. 488 Ashley Edinger 2006 6. 465 Tracey Marshall 1998 7. 450 Jennifer Beltran 2011 8. 398 Michelle Bartsch 2011 9. 396 Erin Borske 1995 10. 393 Lauren Harks 2003
Illinois career kills list
1. 1,833 Laura DeBruler 2007-10 2. 1,761 Mary Eggers 1985-88 3. 1,707 Mary Coleman 1995-98 4. 1,678 Rachel VanMeter 2002-05 5. 1,669 Nancy Brookhart 1986-89 6. 1,657 Tracey Marshall 1996-99 7. 1,550 Michelle Bartsch 2008-11 8. 1,484 Bridget Boyle 1986-89 9. 1,245 Betsy Spicer 1997-00 10. 1,228 Shadia Haddad 1998-01
Illinois career attack attempts list
1. 4,806 Laura DeBruler 2007-10 2. 4,511 Michelle Bartsch 2008-11 4,511 Rachel VanMeter 2002-05 4. 4,374 Mary Coleman 1995-98 5. 4,208 Tracey Marshall 1996-99 6. 3,480 Bridget Boyle 1986-89 7. 3,417 Mary Eggers 1985-88 8. 3,329 Nancy Brookhart 1986-89 9. 3,297 Shadia Haddad 1998-01 10. 3,055 Kylie McCulley 2006-09
The Wheaton, Ill., native averaged 13.7 assists per set for the week, posting 43 in a straight sets win over Northwestern and 53 in a four-set win over Iowa. She helped the Illini hit .407 vs. the Hawkeyes.
Luhrsen ranks third in the Big Ten and 29th nationally in assists per set at 11.13. She holds the top two assists totals in a match by a Big Ten player this year with 68 and 66 against Dayton and Tulsa, respectively. She is the third Illini to win the honor this year, joining middle blocker Anna Dorn, who won it on Oct. 10, and Erin Johnson, who won it Sept. 26.
Viliunas is ranked 34th in prepvolleyball.com's list of Senior Aces. A four-year starter Lyons Township, she led the Lions to the 2010 IHSA Class 4A state title. This season, Viliunas had 272 kills, 37 blocks, 278 digs, 551 assists and 43 aces for a team that reached the supersectional round of the tournament. She holds the school's career assist record with over 2,100. Viliunas was named all-state special mention by the Chicago Tribune in both 2009 and 2010 and second team all-state by both the Champaign News-Gazette and the Chicago Sun-Times both years. She is a three-time Suburban Life All-Area performer, playing for coach Joann Pyritz.
Playing for 1st Alliance (coached by Sue Keck), Viliunas helped the 18U team to third place at the AAU 18 Open Nationals, winning the AAU All-America award for the division. She was named an AAU All-American in 2009 and 2010, helping the 17U team to fifth place at the USAV Nationals 17 Open Division in 2010 and third place at AAU Nationals in 2009. Viliunas was also selected to the USA Select Team. Her brother, Eddie, is a tight end on the Illinois football team.
Mayers, who is ranked 76th in prepvolleyball's list of Senior Aces, was named to first team All-Northeast Indiana the last two seasons and first team All-Summit Athletic Conference for three straight years, playing for John Minnick. The Saints won the pre-season SAC championship during her first three seasons in high school, also claiming the SAC title in 2009. During her senior season, Mayers had a .500 attack percentage with 276 kills, 87 blocks, 84 digs and 45 aces.
Illinois single-match block assists list
1. 13 Anna Dorn 10/8/11 Johannah Bangert 10/23/09 Johannah Bangert 10/9/09 Kellie Hebeisen 9/14/91 5. 12 Johannah Bangert 8/30/08 Shelly O'Bryan 11/30/02 Paula Prentice 10/4/96
Illinois is ranked behind only Texas and four-time defending national champion Penn State. The Illini went 1-1 against both teams a year ago. Rounding out the top 10 are Washington, UCLA, California, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Pepperdine and USC. The Big Ten has six total teams in the top 30 - Illinois (3), Wisconsin (7), Nebraska (13), Purdue (14), Ohio State (24) and Minnesota (30).
Junior middle blocker Erin Johnson was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week on Sept. 26. Johnson hit .435 with 11 kills and a career-high 10 blocks in the win over Minnesota and earns the honor for the first time in her career. Johnson ranks third in the conference in hitting percentage at .387, which is on pace to rank among the best in school history for a single season.
Bartsch became just the third Illinois player with a 20-20 performance since 2002 and the first in three seasons when she tallied 21 kills and 23 digs in a four-set victory over Tennessee on Friday night. It didn't take her long to repeat the feat, with 24 kills and 20 digs the following night in a thrilling five-set comeback win over Dayton to help Illinois to its sixth straight State Farm Illini Classic title. Bartsch nearly made it three straight 20-20s with 19 kills and 16 digs in a four-set victory over Houston Saturday morning, despite being subbed for several rotations in the third set.
Bartsch was named the MVP of the BYU/Nike Invitational. Bartsch and Ward each had 40 kills in three victories Bartsch had nine of her 13 blocks in the victory over St. Mary's and had 34 digs for the tournament. Ward added 32 digs in the 10 sets.