#4 Illini Put Perfect Record on the Line vs. Iowa, #5 Nebraska

  0 volleymob | September 28th, 2018 | Big Ten, College - Women's Indoor, News

Courtesy: Illinois Athletics

Match 14:
Friday, September 28, 2018 | 7 p.m. CT | Huff Hall | Champaign, Ill.
Video: BTN Plus ($) | Audio: WDWS 1400 | Livestats
Match 15:
No. 3 Nebraska
Saturday, September 29, 2018 | 7 p.m. CT | Huff Hall | Champaign, Ill.
TV: BTN | Audio: WDWS 1400 | Livestats

After opening the 2018 season on the road for four of the first five weekends, the No. 7 Illinois volleyball team returns to Huff Hall for a four-match homestand, starting this weekend when UI hosts Iowa on Friday (September 28) and No. 3 Nebraska on Saturday (September 29). Both matches are set for 7 p.m. CT.

The Illini hold a 61-14 advantage in the all-time series with Iowa and are 31-6 in Champaign. The Illini swept the Hawkeyes in the two meetings last season, earning a five-set victory on October 20 in Iowa City, before posting a straight-sets win in Huff Hall on November 22.

Illinois trails in the all-time series with the Huskers, 7-24-1, but have earned five of those seven wins in Champaign, holding a 5-6 record at home. The Illini dropped the only meeting between the two schools a season ago, falling 3-1 on October 21. It was the first meeting between the Huskers and Illini since the hiring of head coach Chris Tamas, who came to Illinois following a two-year stint as an assistant coach with the Huskers.

Illinois opened its Big Ten campaign last weekend in dramatic fashion, posting a 3-1 win at then-No. 16 Purdue on Friday for its fifth top-25 win of the season, before a come-from-behind five-set win at Indiana on Sunday that saw the Illini drop the first two sets of the match, before rallying in the next three.

The Illini move to 24-13 in Big Ten openers and have now won their last six overall conference starters as well as their last six openers away from Huff Hall.

Redshirt-junior Beth Prince led a contingent of four Illini with double-digit kills against the Boilermakers after turning in a team-high 19 kills on a .279 hitting percentage, while sophomore Megan Cooney tallied 12 kills and senior Ali Bastianelli and junior Jacqueline Quade each posted 11 kills in the win.

Defensively, Bastianelli added a match-high six blocks, while sophomore Morgan O’Brien registered her third-career 20-dig match and second of the season with a team-high 20 digs.

The Illini also had four players register double-digit kills on Sunday when facing the Hoosiers with Cooney and Prince each turning in a match-high 16 kills – with Cooney hitting at a .433 clip to go along with four blocks. Quade registered her sixth career double-double and second of the season with 15 kills and 14 digs, while Bastianelli added 13 kills on a .391 attack clip and a match-high seven blocks.

Senior Jordyn Poulter tallied her 28th career double-double and fifth of the season after handing out 52 assists to go along with 15 digs.

Defensively, the Illini also had four players reach double figures in digs as Quade and Poulter were joined by freshman Taylor Kuper with a season-high 15 digs and O’Brien with 13 digs.

For the first time since the 2015 season, Illinois moved into the top-10 of the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA)  Coaches Top 25 poll with a No. 8 ranking in the September 10th poll, holding at No. 8 for two weeks before jumping one spot at No. 7 in Monday’s (September 24) rankings.

The Illini spent the first six weeks of the 2015 campaign in the top-10 of the AVCA poll, including a No. 7 ranking on September 28 – the last time the Illini were in the top-10.

Illinois is joined by six other Big Ten schools ranked the AVCA Poll this week and are the fourth-highest behind No. 3 Nebraska, No. 5 Wisconsin, and No. 6 Minnesota, with No. 9 Penn State, No. 16 Purdue and No. 17 Michigan also making appearances in the rankings. Additionally, Ohio State and Michigan State are receiving votes.

Along with their conference foes, the Illini have faced five other opponents in the top-25 or are receiving votes, including No. 10 Creighton, No. T-13 Washington, No. 23 Colorado, Colorado State (RV) and Northern Iowa (RV).

UI opened the 2018 season with a No. 12 ranking in the AVCA Preseason poll, before sitting at No. 11 for two weeks and No. 8 for two weeks.

The quarterback of the Illini offense since she arrived on campus in 2015, senior Jordyn Poulter entered the top-five in career assists earlier this season and with 39 helpers in a win over Northern Iowa on September 14 became just the fourth-ever Illini to reach 4,000 career assists in program history.

The senior currently ranks fourth all-time with 4,186 helpers, with Barb Winsett (1987-90) sitting in third place with 4,457 career helpers. Melissa Beitz (1996-99) ranks first in program history with 5,797 assists from 1996-99.

Senior Ali Bastianelli has established herself as one of the all-time blocking greats and has etched her name in the Illini record books, becoming just the second player in program history to reach 600 career total blocks after crossing that threshold with 15 stuffs at the CSU Invitational on September 7-8.

She is just 12 blocks away from tying former player and director of operations Johannah Bangert (2007-10) for the program record of 653 total blocks.

Bastianelli also sits in second place for career blocks assists with 587, just 26 block assists from Bangert’s record of 613.

The Illini set a new season-high with 12 service aces against No. 16 Purdue on Friday night as senior Ali Bastianelli turned in a career-high and tied the team’s season-high with five aces, while junior Jacqueline Quade equaled her career-high with four aces as well.

As a team, the Illini rank eighth in the NCAA and second in the Big Ten with 1.90 aces per set and are 27th in the nation with 91 on the season.

Individually, freshman Taylor Kuper paces the Illini with 22 aces on the season, while ranking 36th in the country and third in the conference with 0.46 aces per set.

For the season, the Illini have registered six matches with seven or more aces, including two double-digit ace outings with 12 at Purdue on Friday and 10 in a win over UC Urvine on September 8.

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