Colleen Ward leads the NCAA Tournament with 6.29 kills per set.
Dec. 8, 2010
Illini play in program's 12th Sweet 16
Illinois (24-8) travels to Austin, Texas, for the NCAA Regional. The 8th seeded Illini meet No. 9 Texas Friday night. The winner advances to the Elite Eight on Saturday night.
Illinois advanced to the Round of 16 after defeating Austin Peay 25-19, 25-19, 25-19 and Cincinnati 25-17, 25-17, 20-25, 25-21 at Huff Hall.
The Illini advance to the Sweet 16 for the third straight year and the 12th time in school history. The Illini reached the round five straight years from 1985-89, the only other time Illinois reached Sweet 16s multiple years in a row. The Illini also reached the round in 1992, 1995, 1998 and 2003. The Illini have not made a Regional Final since 1992.
With the victories last weekend, the Illini are now 22-3 in NCAA Tournament games played at home.
The Austin Regional is the only one with all four national seeds remaining. Top seeded Florida survived a scare against Florida State in the second round, winning in five. The Gators play 16th-seeded Purdue while eighth-seeded Illinois plays No. 9 Texas.
Saturday, December 11
8 pm -- Winners of Friday's matches
Site: Gregory Arena, Austin, Texas
TV: Friday's match will be streamed live on texassports.com, fightingillini.com and ncaa.com; Saturday's final will be shown live on ESPNU and ESPN3.com with Sam Gore and Kelli Tennant are on the call.
Radio: Both Illinois matches will be carried live on WDAN (AM 1490) and audio streamed on fightingillini.com. Friday night's match will be aired on WDWS (AM 1400) and Saturday's final on WHMS (FM 97.5). Dave Loane and Mike Trame are on the call.
Blog: Mike Koon will be providing a live blog via fightingillini.com throughout the tournament.
Practice Day Thursday:
All four teams will hold an open practice for fans at Gregory Arena on Thursday. Illinois is practicing from 3:15-4:45 pm. The teams will have press conferences on Thursday. That press conference and those after all three matches will be streamed live on texassports.com. The Illinois Thursday press conference is from 2:20-2:35 pm.
Another rematch in the tournament: For the second straight round, Illinois is playing a team it met during the regular season. The fifth-ranked Illini knocked off No. 2 Texas in straight sets. That ended Texas' 25-match home court win streak.
Illinois hit .361 compared to Texas' .318. Laura DeBruler paced the Illini with 17 kills. Michelle Bartsch had 10 kills and hit .526 to earn Big Ten Player of the Week. Jennifer Bonilla earned the first of her four Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors, successfully returning all 15 serves she received. Hillary Haen had three of Illinois' six aces. Texas All-American Juliann Faucette had 10 kills and hit .200.
Illinois is coming a four-set victory over Cincinnati after falling to the Bearcats in five sets earlier this year.
Illinois all-time vs. Texas: Illinois has a 6-5 record all-time vs. the Longhorns, having won in five sets in 1998 at the Chicago Challenge at Mother McAuley High School. The Illini were unranked coming into the match while Texas was ranked No. 7. Six of the matches against Texas have been at a neutral site. The Illini are 2-1 all-time in Austin, including a five-set victory on Nov. 22, 1986. That victory came with Texas ranked No. 6 and Illinois No. 12.
Big Ten fares well: Illinois is one of six Big Ten teams to advance to the Sweet 16. The conference qualified a best eight for the tournament and are 13-2 combined in the first two rounds. Other teams in the Sweet 16 are No. 4 Penn State, No. 10 Minnesota, No. 16 Purdue, Indiana, and Ohio State.
A total of 11 of the 16 national seeds made it through to the regionals. Of the five that didn't two were beaten by Big Ten teams. Indiana downed No. 11 Tennessee in five sets in Bloomington. Ohio State won at No. 14 Dayton.
More Illinois Tournament history
Illinois is participating in its 19th NCAA Tournament 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.
Last season Illinois received a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament and reached the Sweet 16 with home victories over IPFW (3-0) and Dayton (3-1) before falling to 12th-seed and third-ranked Hawaii in four sets.
Potential Storylines in Elite Eight
Illinois could meet Purdue for the third time this season. The Illini defeated the Boilermakers in four sets in Champaign on Oct. 15. Purdue defeated Illinois in four sets in the season finale at West Lafayette.
The loss ended a six-game Illinois win streak in the series. The Illini are 41-33 all-time vs. the Boilermakers.
Only once in NCAA history as two Big Ten teams met in a regional final with a Final Four berth on the line. That was in 2004 when Minnesota knocked off Ohio State in five sets.
Big Ten teams have met eight times in the tournament. The Illini have done so twice, defeating Ohio State in the first round in 1992 at Huff Hall and falling at Wisconsin in the 1990 first round in Madison.
A match-up with Florida would have Colleen Ward facing her former teammates. Ward played her first two seasons in Gainesville, helping Florida to back-to-back Sweet 16s and being named to the All-SEC Freshman Team in 2008.
Illinois is 3-4 all-time vs. Florida with the Gators winning the last four meetings. The Illini and Gators met in the 1999 NCAA Second Round in Gainesville with Illinois nearly pulling off the upset before fourth-seed Florida won in five sets.
Ward having hot start to NCAA Tournament
Illinois has gotten contributions from a number of sources in getting back to the Sweet 16. The biggest storyline, however, has been the play of Colleen Ward. The junior from Naperville, Ill., had 44 kills, an average of 6.29 per set and made just six hitting errors in 103 attempts (a .369 percentage). She also racked up 20 digs and four blocks.
Ward's previous best performance in the NCAA Tournament came in the 2009 first round when she tallied 14 kills and hit .393 vs. the College of Charleston while playing for Florida.
Hambly posts victory No. 50
Illinois head coach Kevin Hambly posted his 50th win as the Illinois head coach on Saturday. His record in his first years is now 50-14. He is the fastest Illinois coach to 50 wins.
Illinois is 76-22 in its last three seaons overall.
The Road Ahead The NCAA Final Four is at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., on Dec. 16-18. The finals are broadcast on ESPN2.
Illinois Ranked 14th in AVCA Poll
Illinois checked in at No.14 in the AVCA rankings, the first time Illinois been out of the 10 all season. Opponents in the rankings are Nebraska (3), Texas (6), Penn State (8), Minnesota (12), Dayton (13), Cincinnati (21), Michigan (23) and Purdue (T-24).
Seniors bring Illini back to national prominence
In the last four seasons, this senior senior class has won 92 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 20 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 for the third straight season
Haen, Bartsch, Ward earn All-Region honors; Five Illini honored by the Big Ten
Senior setter Hillary Haen and junior outside hitters Michelle Bartsch and Colleen Ward were named First Team All-Mideast Region. Libero Jennifer Bonilla was an honorable mention selection.
Illinois tied with Penn State with the most players on the team from the region.
Haen, Bartsch and Ward from Illinois have been named All-Big Ten. In addition, Bonilla was named to the All-Big Ten Freshman Team and senior middle blocker Nicole Kump was named Illinois' Sportsmanship Award winner.
Haen earns the honor for the second consecutive season. The 2009 Honorable Mention All-American was named MVP of the State Farm Illini Classic after posting 134 assists combined in victories over BYU, South Carolina and Middle Tennessee State to also earn Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week accolades. Haen currently leads the Big Ten and ranks 16th in the nation in assists at 11.53 per set after amassing 95 in the NCAA Tournament first two rounds. Her 3,903 career assists rank fourth on Illinois' all-time list while her 1,418 assists this season are eighth on Illinois' all-time single-season assists list.
Bartsch also is a repeat All-Big Ten winner after also earning Honorable Mention All-Midwest and Honorable Mention All-America accolades in 2009. She was named MVP of the Time Warner Cable Invitational after leading Illinois to victories over Texas and Florida A&M. In that tournament, Bartsch hit. .526 with 10 kills in 19 swings vs. Texas and .500 with nine kills in 16 swings vs. Florida A&M to also earn Big Ten Player of the Week accolades. She ranks fourth in points per set (4.28) and fourth in kills per set (3.71) in the Big Ten during conference only matches and sixth in kills (3.56) and eighth in points (4.12) in overall matches.
Ward was named to the All-Tournament teams at the Time Warner Cable Invitational, the Ameritas Players Challenge and at the Big Ten/Big East Challenge. She was also named Big Ten Player of the Week on Sept. 27 after amassing 30 kills and 18 digs in victories over Penn State and Ohio State. She has five matches with at least 20 kills, including 23 in a five-set win over Minnesota. In the Big Ten, Ward ranks third in kills (4.02 per set) and third in points (4.54 per set).
Bonilla set Illinois' all-time single-season digs record, now with 604, which betters Ashley Edinger's 564 from 2007. She has been named Freshman of the Week four times, after posting 31 digs combined in straight sets victories over both No. 2 Texas and Florida A&M; on Oct. 4 after tallying 32 and 27 digs, respectively, in victories over Wisconsin and Northwestern; on Oct. 18 after combining for 52 digs in wins over Purdue and Indiana; and on Oct. 25 when she had just one reception error while posting 38 digs in wins over Minnesota and Iowa. Bonilla currently ranks second in the Big Ten in digs at 4.87 per set.
Kump has been one Illinois' most versatile players, filling in for both Bartsch on the right side and Erin Johnson at middle blocker during injury/illness situations. She had seven kills vs. Purdue and five more vs. Indiana for 12 in the weekend of Oct. 15-16 and tallied four kills and three blocks in the win at Wisconsin.
Bangert earns first team Academic All-American
Illinois senior Johannah Bangert has been named a First Team ESPN Academic All-American as voted on by members of the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). Bangert is one of just six players from NCAA Division I to earn that distinction. She becomes Illinois' first First Team Academic All-American since Laura Bush in 1990.
Bangert was a Pre-Season All-Big Ten choice after earning Honorable Mention All-America honors in 2009. She broke Illinois' career blocks record and now has 648 for her career, which is also ninth on the all-time Big Ten career list. Her 608 blocks assists are just four shy of the all-time Big Ten mark in that category. She was named to the All-Tournament team at both the State Farm Illini Classic and Ameritas Players Challenge and earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after tallying 10 blocks and seven kills in a victory over Michigan and six blocks vs. Michigan State. Currently, the Washington, Mo., native ranks sixth in the Big Ten and 35th in the nation in blocks (1.26 per set) in overall matches and fourth in the conference in hitting percentage (.368) during Big Ten matches.
Bangert is majoring in mathematics/secondary education and has earned Academic-Big Ten accolades three straight seasons.
Recapping last year's tournament
Illinois began the tournament with a 25-26, 25-15, 25-12 victory over IPFW. The Illini got 15 kills and three blocks from Michelle Bartsch and 11 kills and 10 digs from Laura DeBruler. With the score 10-9 in the first set, Illinois called timeout, then out-scored the Mastadons 66-33 from there.
Illinois dropped the first set to Dayton then battled back for a 26-28, 25-8, 25-17, 25-18 victory over the Flyers in round two. DeBruler hit .455 and Rachel Feldman set an Illinois NCAA Tournament record with 26 digs.
The Illini took the first set from Hawaii in Palo, Alto, Calif., in the Sweet 16 round, but fell 21-25, 25-10, 27-25, 25-16. Kylie McCulley led Illinois with 14 kills. The Illini had a swing to win the third set with a 25-24 lead. The Illini came back from a 17-14 deficit. Hawaii went on to the Final Four
Illinois played three of the Final Four teams -- Minnesota, Penn State and Hawaii.
Illinois creating quite a home court advantage
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 14-1 at home this year and 41-5 in front of the home crowd the past three years combined. Two of the losses have come to No. 1 Penn State.
In the years the Illini have qualified for the NCAA Tournament, they have a 244-46 home record (.841).
Illinois tied its Huff Hall winning streak with its 22nd straight home win on Nov. 19 before Minnesota broke that streak the following night. Illinois also won 22 straight 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.
Colleen Ward leads tournament in kills
Colleen Ward leads the NCAA Tournament in kills through the first two rounds at 6.29 kills per set. of the remaining teams, California's Tarah Murray is next at 5.83.
Hillary Haen is fourth in assists (13.57). Johannah Bangert is 13th in blocks (1.71). Jennifer Bonilla is 14th in digs (5.57). Jackie Wolfe is 15th in service aces (0.57).
Through the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, Illinois ranks second in service aces (2.00 per set), fourth in kills (16.00), sixth in assists (14.71), 10th in digs (19.14) 15th in hitting percentage (.288), 18th in opponent hitting percentage (.193) and 22nd in blocks (2.29)
Texas' Rachael Adams is second in hitting percentage (24-3-35-.600)
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 648.
Bangert has 608 career block assists, just four 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.
Big Ten Career Block Assists Leaders BA Name, School Years 1. 612 Heather Dodaro, WIS 1994-97 2. 608 Johannah Bangert, ILL 2007-10 608 Terri Zemaitis, PSU 1994-97 4. 606 Lauren Cacciamani, PSU 1996-99 5. 604 Taylor Reineke, WIS 2004-07 6. 581 Christa Harmotto, PSU 2005-08 7. 552 Angela Morley, MSU 1999-02 8. 550 Stephanie Lynch, PUR 2005-08 9. 536 Erika Lange, NU 2000-03 10. 494 Dana Cooke, MSU 1993-96
Big Ten Career Total Block Leaders BL Name, School Years 1. 767 Lauren Cacciamani, PSU 1996-99 2. 736 Terri Zemaitis, PSU 1994-97 3. 682 Heather Dodaro, WIS 1994-97 Christa Harmotto, PSU 2005-08 5. 671 Taylor Reineke, WIS 2004-07 6. 660 Stephanie Lynch, PUR 2005-08 7. 648 Johannah Bangert, ILL 2007-10 8. 647 Erika Lange, NU 2000-03 9. 637 Angela Morley, MSU 1999-02 10. 618 Arlisa Hagan, WIS 1989-92 11. 581 Dana Cooke, MSU 1993-96
Illinois' Single-Season Digs Leaders Name Digs Year 1. Jennifer Bonilla 604 2010 2. Ashley Edinger 564 2007 3. Ashley Edinger 562 2008 4. Beth Vrdsky 520 2005 5. Ashley Edinger 488 2006 6. Tracey Marshall 465 1998 7. Erin Borske 396 1995 8. Lauren Harks 393 2003 9. Mary Coleman 381 1998 10. Laura DeBruler 379 2008
Haen moves up Illinois career, season assists lists
Hillary Haen has moved into fourth on Illinois' all-time assist list, entering the week with 3,903. She is also 8th in single-season assists.
Illinois Career Assist Leaders Asst. Name Years 1. 5,797 Melissa Beitz 1996-99 2. 5,550 Disa Johnson 1984-87 3. 4,457 Barb Winsett 1987-90 4. 3,903 Hillary Haen 2007-10 5. 3,847 Lizze Bazzetta 2005-08 6. 3,661 Merrill Mullis 1990-93 7. 3,578 Betsy Eiserman 2000-02
Illinois Single-Season Assist Leaders Asst. Name Matches Year 1. 1,859 Melissa Beitz 33 1998 2. 1,770 Carolien Dikhoff 33 1995 3. 1,691 Barb Winsett 35 1989 4. 1,630 Disa Johnson 39 1986 5. 1,627 Erin Virtue 33 2003 6, 1,599 Disa Johnson 42 1985 7. 1,591 Barb Winsett 34 1988 8 1,418 Hillary Haen 30 2010 9. 1,410 Melissa Beitz 30 1997 10. 1,366 Melissa Beitz 28 1999