Illinois is making its first Sweet 16 appearance in five years.
Dec. 9, 2008
Media Coverage Information
Radio: Illini Sports Network (Dave Loane and Mike Koon), Friday's match will be carried live on WDWS AM (1400) in Champaign while Saturday's, match, if Illinois wins Friday, will be carried on WHMS-FM (97.5). WDAN AM (1490) in Danville will cover Illinois matches during the weekend
Televison: Both regional semifinals will be streamed live on ncaasports.com. The Regional Final will be shown live on ESPU (Beth Mowins and Karch Kiraly).
All-session tickets (three matches) are on sale now and are $16 for adults and $10 for youth and students. Single-session tickets will be available at Rec Hall the day of the match ONLY and are $10 for adults, $7 for youth and students and $4 per person in groups of 20 or more, any age. All seating is general admission and first-come, first-served. Tickets can be purchased in advance by calling 814-865-5555. Illinois Tournament History
Illinois is making its first NCAA berth since 2004. The Illini have made the post-season five times in the last 10 seasons (1998, 1999, 2001, 2003 & 2004) and advanced to the Sweet 16 in 1998 and 2003.
Illinois has advanced to the NCAA 17 times in the past 24 seasons, reaching the Sweet 16 10 times and the Final Four in 1987 and 1988. Don Hardin was an assistant coach during the run in `87.
Illinois has a 23-16 record all-time in the NCAA Tournament.
The Tournament in Champaign
This is the 11th year that Illinois has hosted NCAA Tournament action, dating back to 1986. With the wins last weekend, the Illini are 18-3 in NCAA home matches, which included Regional Final victories over Nebraska and Oklahoma, respectively, to advance to the 1987 and 1988 Final Fours. Illinois also hosted the 1992 Mideast Regional, falling to Stanford in an epoch four-set battle.
The Illini made Kenney Gym their home until 1990, when they moved to Huff Hall.
Series History with California
Illinois and California have met twice, with the Illini holding a 2-0 lead in the series. The Illini defeated the Golden Bears 15-9, 9-15, 15-9, 15-4 in Berkely on Sept. 14, 1985 and then on Nov. 24, 1990 at the Community Banker's Classic, with the Illini coming out on top 15-10, 15-9, 15-4.
Illinois is 0-3 vs. the Pac-10 in the NCAA Tournament, falling to USC in the Mideast Regional in 1985 and to Stanford in the Mideast Regional Final in 1992 and to Arizona in the 2001 second round.
Series History with Penn State
Penn State holds a 32-6 lead in the series over Illinois. The last win over the Lions was Oct. 10, 2003. The Illini have never won at Rec Hall
Series History with W. Michigan
Illinois leads the series with Western Michigan 13-3 with the last meeting coming in 1990. The Illini and Broncos have met three times in the NCAA Tournament with the Illini winning all three matches -- 3-1 in the 1985 first round in Kalamazoo, 3-0 in the 1986 Regional Semifinals in Lincoln, Neb., and 3-2 in the 1987 Regional Semifinal at Kenney Gym in Urbana. The Illini needed that five-set victory en route to the Final Four that year. Illinois defeated Nebraska in three sets in the Regional Final that year.
Following a pattern?
Illinois has taken foreign trips in 1998 and 2003 and each has translated into trips to the Sweet 16.
In May, Illinois went 9-1 on a tour through Italy, Croatia and Slovenia and was again finds itself in the Sweet 16.
Overcoming the Penn State juggernaut: Penn State is on an NCAA record 60-match winning streak. The Illini have come close to the Lions on a couple of occasions. Last season an unranked Illinois team took the Lions to five sets in Champaign. This year Illinois is one just two teams to come within two points of taking a set off the Lions, who have not dropped even a set this season. The Illini led 19-15 before dropping the first set 25-23 on Nov. 14 in Champaign.
More on California: California brings a 25-6 record into Friday's Regional Semifinal. The Bears finished 13-5 in the Pac 10, but defeated every team in the conference at least once. They finished eighth in the final Bison/AVCA Coaches poll. Cal won at no. 2 Stanford on Oct. 19.
The Bears and the Illini have four common opponents -- Oregon, Stanford, Minnesota and New Mexico State. Illinois defeated Oregon 3-2 and New Mexico State 3-1 and lost to Stanford 3-0 and Minnesota twice (3-2 both times). California split with Stanford (3-1 and 0-3) and Oregon (3-0 and 1-3), lost to Minnesota (3-0) and defeated NMSU 3-1 in the second round of the NCAA last weekend.
California is third in the nation in kills per set (15.32) and assists per set (13.87), while ranking seventh with a .290 hitting percentage.
More on Penn State: Penn State has been the story of the volleyball season. The Lions have won an NCAA record 60 straight matches and have not dropped a set in 34 matches this season. Penn State is looking for its second straight national title and third in school history, having also won it in 1999.
Head coach Russ Rose won his 10th Big Ten Coach of the Year award while outside hitter Nicole Fawcett garnered Big Ten Player of the Year accolades and was one of five Nittany Lions to be named First Team All-Big Ten. Rose has a 959-159 record in 30 years at Penn State.
More on Western Michigan: Western Michigan is making its first Sweet 16 appearance in 21 years. Ironically the last time WMU got this far, they were knocked out by Illinois in the Regional Semifinals.
WMU made the tournament eight straight years from 1982-89 and is making its 10th appearance overall this season, having also played in the post-season in 2000.
The Broncos overcame a 2-1 deficit to upset 16th-seeded Tulane in the second round.
WMU earned an at-large bid into the tournament after winning the Mid-American Conference title and being upset in the MAC Tournament. The conference received three bids in the NCAA -- conference tourney champ Ohio and Miami (Ohio) are also in.
Illinois streaking into Sweet 16
Illinois enters the weekend having won seven straight matches with five of those seven matches coming in three sets. The Illini have won 13 of their last 15 and 16 of their last 19 matches.
Only eight teams in the 34 year history of Illinois volleyball have won more than the 26 the Illini have this season. The last time Illinois won as many as 27 was back in 1992, when the Illini went 32-4.
DeBruler, Bangert win Big Ten statistical titles
Laura DeBruler and Johannah Bangert wrapped up statistical titles in the conference. DeBruler led the league in kills in both overall (4.62 kps) and conference matches (4.73) while also leading the league in points (5.23). DeBruler finished in front of second-place Erica Short (4.29) of Indiana in kills during conference matches.
Bangert, meanwhile led the Big Ten in blocks in both conference (1.72) and overall matches (1.61), bettering Arielle Wilson of Penn State by 0.20.
DeBruler repeated her conference leadership in kills while Bangert became the first Illinois player to lead the league in blocks since Denise Fracaro in 1984.
This also marks the first time that Illinois players have won multiple categories since 1998 when Melissa Beitz led the league in assists and Tracey Marshall led the conference in digs.
Tournament filled with Illinois opponents
The fact that Illinois received a no. 9 national seed has a lot to do with having one of the toughest schedules. Illinois played 20 matches against teams considered "regionally ranked" by the AVCA, going 14-6 in those matches and 18 matches against "nationally ranked" teams, going 12-6.
The Big Ten had four of the top ten seeds in the tournament -- no. 1 Penn State, no. 6 Minnesota, no. 9 Illinois and no. 10 Purdue.
Illinois also played three other seeded teams, going 2-1 against those teams -- no. 2 Stanford, no. 11 Oregon and no. 13 Saint Louis.
Illinois played five other teams in the tournament -- Dayton, New Mexico State, Tennessee, Michigan, North Carolina
In all, the Illini played against 15 matches against 11 teams that earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
Season has been a breakout
Illinois has burst back onto the national scene this year.
At 15-5, the Illini have won more conference matches than any since going 15-5 in 2003 and have won 20 matches overall for the first time since winning 26 in `03.
Saw its first national ranking since 2004
Defeated two ranked teams in the same day for the first time ever with a 24-26, 25-21, 25-19, 25-14 victory over New Mexico State in the afternoon and a comeback 14-25, 16-25, 26-24, 25-21, 15-13 over no. 11 Oregon in the evening at the State Farm Illini Classic.
Defeated three ranked teams in the same season for the first time since 2003.
Won at Michigan and Ohio State in the same season since 1998 and first victory over Purdue since 2003.
Defeated Wisconsin, annually one of the teams in conference, for the first time since 2004 and won at Wisconsin for the first time since 1995.
Qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004 and has reached the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2003.
Edinger eyes own single-season digs mark
Ashley Edinger became Illinois' all-time digs leader on Nov. 1 in a win over Ohio State. She now has 1,602 for her career. The junior is also closing in on her own single-season digs record of 564 she set last season. She enters this weekend with 550.
She also had 35 digs vs Dayton, her sixth 30+digs match of her career.
DeBruler down the stretch
Laura DeBruler, who ranks sixth in the nation in kills per set (4.62) has especially been potent down the stretch in matches, hitting .500 with seven kills in set four vs. Purdue and .600 with six kills in the decisive fifth set vs. Michigan State. Earlier this season, she converted eight kills in the fifth set in a dramatic 25-22 victory over Michigan and tallied 22 digs overall.
McCulley posts second 20-20 of the season
Kylie McCulley set career highs in both kills and digs with 22 apiece vs. Minnesota. This marked the second player to enter the 20-20 club this year, joining Laura DeBruler. This is the first time multiple Illini have accomplished that feat since 1996 when Tracey Marshall, Mary Coleman and Kelly Scherr did so. Only one player since then (Sue Webber in 2002) has done it.