Birks Earns Unanimous All-Big Ten Selection, Three Total Illini Honored
Dec. 3, 2013
Rosemont, Ill. - Three members of the Fighting Illini volleyball team earned Big Ten postseason awards, as announced by the Big Ten conference on Tuesday morning. The Orange and Blue were led by sophomore Jocelynn Birks, who was a unanimous All-Big Ten selection, while junior Liz McMahon earned an All-Big Ten Honorable Mention and Courtney Abrahamovich picked up the team's sportsmanship award.
Outside hitter Jocelynn Birks earns her first career All-Big Ten award after garnering All-Freshman honors and an All-Big Ten Honorable Mention in 2012. A potent attacker, Birks finished the regular season ranked fifth in the Big Ten and in the top 45 in the nation in both kills and points per set, while ranking fourth in both categories during conference play. The six-rotation player gained confidence with her serve towards the end of the season, landing 10 aces in the final eight matches to finish the year tied for seventh in aces per set in Big Ten play. The Willow Springs, Ill., native totaled 453 kills, 249 digs, 70 blocks, 23 aces and 19 assists on the season, putting up a sum of 514.5 points in 2013. After two seasons for the Orange and Blue, Birks ranks second in the nation in career attempts per set (12.27) and 10th in kills per set (4.06), sitting in third place among underclassmen with 963 career kills.
"In a league filled with talent it's not surprising that we have talented kids," said Head Coach Kevin Hambly. "I'm sure Lizzie (McMahon) was close to being All-Big Ten, and Jocelynn (Birks) really earned it this year. I think we're probably going to get a lot of All-Americans out of this group, even the honorable mentions, as we have every year.
"I'm excited for them. I don't think either of them really care [about the award], they are more concerned about wins and how far the team goes in the tournament. I'm sure it's nice to be honored and I think the fans are more excited about it then they are. "
Outside hitter Liz McMahon was honored by the Big Ten for the third straight season, earning an honorable mention after capturing All-Freshman honors in 2011 and an All-Big Ten selection in 2012. The Liberty Township, Ohio, native came through in the clutch several times for the Illini, nailing 23 kills to lead Illinois to a hard-fought victory in five sets over Arizona State and hitting .383 with a combined 38 kills in wins over Ohio State and Wisconsin on back-to-back Sundays. McMahon recorded her 1,000th career kill on Nov. 27 against Northwestern and ranks 140th in the nation in career kills. The 6-6 front row player has totaled 90 blocks on the season, including putting up 10 against Kentucky in a 5-set victory back on Aug. 31.
Birks was one of 14 student-athletes from nine different teams to earn a place on the 2013 All-Big Ten team, eight of whom (including Birks) were voted on unanimously by the conference coaches. Six additional players garnered honorable mentions, while seven first-year players took a spot on the All-Freshman squad. Penn State led all teams with four players earning All-Big Ten, and only Iowa and Indiana were left off the list.
The conference also gave out five individual awards, which went to players from four different teams, along with Penn State Head Coach Russ Rose, who was named Big Ten Coach of the Year for the 12th time in his career. Senior Kelsey Robinson, who transferred to Nebraska this season after earning 2011 SEC Player of the Year honors, was named Big Ten Player of the Year. Michigan State libero Kori Moster earned Defensive Player of the Year and Penn State's Micha Hancock took home Setter of the Year, both of whom earned the same honors last season. Talented Wisconsin setter Lauren Carlini rounded out the individual awards by earning Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
In addition to the awards given to players for their performance on the court, each coach nominated a student-athlete to represent their squad with a Sportsmanship Award. This season, Coach Hambly chose senior defensive specialist Courtney Abrahamovich to recognize her commitment to the program through four seasons with the team.
"Courtney is an incredible senior and I think she deserves the [sportsmanship] award as a great ambassador for our program," said Hambly.
The complete list of All-Big Ten honorees, individual award winners and Sportsmanship Award Honorees can be found below.
Unanimous selections in CAPS
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
SETTER OF THE YEAR
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
COACH OF THE YEAR (COACHES AND MEDIA)
SPORTSMANSHIP AWARD HONOREES