Illinois Finishes Non-Conference Schedule in Billiken Invitational

  0 volleymob | September 15th, 2016 | Big Ten, College - Women's Indoor, Division I Mid-Major, News

Press Release Courtesy: Illinois Athletics

Illinois to face Omaha, Murray State and Saint Louis in two-day tournament in Saint Louis, Mo.

Billiken Invitational
Match 9:
Friday, Sept. 16, 2016 | 4:30 p.m. CT | Saint Louis, Mo. | Chaifetz Pavilion
Radio: WDWS 1400 | Livestats
Match 10:
Murray State
Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 | 10 a.m. CT | Saint Louis, Mo. | Chaifetz Pavilion
Radio: WDWS 1400 | Livestats
Match 11:
Saint Louis
Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 | 7 p.m. CT | Saint Louis, Mo. | Chaifetz Pavilion
Video: A-10 Stream | Radio: WDWS 1400 | Livestats
Full Match Notes Illinois | Omaha | Murray State
Statistics Illinois | Omaha | Murray State | Saint Louis
Series History Omaha: First Meeting
Murray State: Illinois leads 3-0 | Last: Illinois won, 3-0, on Dec. 5, 2014 | Streak: W3 | Results
Saint Louis: Illinois leads 3-0 | Last Illinois won, 3-1, on Sept. 12, 2009 | Streak: W3 | Results
Tickets Buy Tickets
Social Media @IlliniVball  | #Illini  | Facebook  | @IlliniVBall  | YouTube


The Fighting Illini volleyball team will wrap up nonconference play this weekend with its final regular season tournament of the season, the Billiken Invitational, hosted by Saint Louis University in Saint Louis, Mo., on Sept. 16-17 in Chaifetz Pavilion.

The Illini and Omaha will start things off for the two-day tournament on Fridayat 4:30 p.m. CT, before SLU and Murray State face off at 7 p.m.

Its an action-packed Saturday as Illinois and Murray State open the day’s play at10 a.m., followed by Omaha and SLU at 12 p.m. The Racers and the Mavericks will then face each other at 4:30 p.m., before the Illini and the host Billikens finish up the tournament with the finale at 7 p.m.


The Illinois volleyball team holds an undefeated 6-0 mark against this weekend’s tournament opponents, while also facing a new foe for the first time.

Friday’s match against Omaha will be the first between the two schools. The Mavericks are the final new opponent the Illini are scheduled to face in 2016, joining Missouri State, whom the Illini played in the Illini Classic and Belmont, who UI took on in last weekend’s Nike Invitational.

Illinois is a perfect 3-0 against the Racers of Murray State and have not lost a set in three meetings. Illinois’ last victory against MSU came in the first round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament, where the No. 9-seeded Illini defeated the Racers, 3-0, on Dec. 5 in Huff Hall.

The Orange & Blue also hold a 3-0 mark against the host Billikens and last faced SLU in 2009. The Illini secured a 3-1 victory on Sept. 12 in Champaign.


As a team, the Illini rank in the top 45 in the NCAA in total blocks and blocks per set, with UI coming in at 12th in blocks per set with a 2.97 average. The Illini sit 43rd in the nation with 92 total blocks. The Illini also rank 78th in the NCAA with a .241 hitting percentage.


Sophomore Ali Bastianelli has quickly become one of the premier blockers in the NCAA and ranks fifth with 1.74 blocks per set and is 14th in the nation with 54 total blocks on the season, while also sitting second in both of the those categories in the Big Ten Conference.


After a slow start to the Nike Invitational that saw the Illini fall in three set to host Oregon, Illinois responded with back-to-back straight-set victories over Belmont and Saint Mary’s last Saturday. The Illini defeated Belmont, 25-9, 25-16, 25-23, with freshman Jacqueline Quade leading with nine kills and sophomore Ali Bastianelli registering nine blocks.

In the tournament finale, senior Katie Stadick led the Illini to a 25-11, 25-18, 25-18 win over Saint Mary’s with 11 kills on 15 swings and only one error for a team-high .667 hitting percentage and six blocks. Bastianelli added seven blocks in the win.

For their efforts, Quade and sophomore Jordyn Poulter were named to the Nike Invitational All-Tournament Team. Quade totaled a team-high 26 kills and 31 points in the three matches, to go along with 11 digs, eight blocks and a .298 hitting percentage.  For her part, Poulter masterminded an Illini offense that hit at a .216 clip – including two matches over .300 – as well as turning in 13 digs, 12 blocks and 10 kills on a .643 hitting percentage.


Sophomore middle blocker Ali Bastianelli set a program record with 14 block assists against No. 9 Stanford on Sept. 3. The previous mark of 13 block assists was achieved on four occasions, twice by Johannah Bangert and once each by Anna Dorn and Kellie Hebeisen.


Sophomore setter Jordyn Poulter turned in a career performance against Colorado in the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge with a career-high nine kills on 13 swings and no errors for a .692 hitting percentage to go along with 45 assists, seven digs and four block assists.


The Fighting Illini have lost just one even-numbered set this season, holding an 11-1 mark in the second and fourth sets. The Illini dropped their first second set of the season against Oregon on Friday night, but still hold a 7-1 record in the second, while they continue to be undefeated at 4-0 in the fourth frame.

The Illini own a 7-12 mark in odd-numbered sets, including a 3-5 record in the opener, a 4-4 mark in the third and a 0-3  record in the fifth.


For the third-straight season, the Fighting Illini earned the Illini Classic title after finishing the opening weekend with a 2-1 record. Illinois posted wins over Arkansas (25-19, 25-13, 25-22) and Xavier (21-25, 25-23, 25-23, 25-21), before falling to Missouri State in five sets (22-25, 25-14, 22-25, 25-15, 10-15). With three teams tied with a 2-1 record, the Illini earned the title on a set-win percentage tiebreaker.

Senior middle blocker Katie Stadick was named Most Valuable Player after registering 33 kills on 60 swings for a .433 hitting percentage and 14 blocks in the three matches. Sophomore setter Jordyn Poulter and senior opposite hitter Naya Crittenden joined her on the all-tournament team. Poulter averaged 11.17 assists per set after totaling 134 on the weekend, while also turning in nine kills and a .350 hitting percentage, 17 digs and nine blocks. Crittenden posted 25 kills and a .267 hitting percentage, including a career-high 15 kills against MSU, as well as nine blocks and three digs.


The Illini had a number of players hit career-highs in the season-opening Illini Classic. Senior Michelle Strizak posted her first career double-double with 14 kills and a career-high 10 digs to go along with a career-high two assists against Xavier on Saturday morning, while classmate Naya Crittenden turned in a career-high 15 kills against the Bears later that night.

Senior defensive specialist Danielle Davis also tied a career-high with three assists against Missouri State.


The Fighting Illini volleyball consistently plays a demanding schedule year in and year out, with UI playing the most challenging schedule of any team in the NCAA in 2013, followed by the 12th-most difficult slate in 2014, including playing eight matches against teams that finished the season ranked in the top eight.

Last season was no different as the Illini played the 21st-most difficult schedule in the nation, with 10 of the final top 25 teams on its schedule, including six NCAA Regional teams, two Final Four squads and twice against 2015 National Champion, Nebraska.

The Illini continues that streak in 2016, with the Orange & Blue taking on 11 teams that appear in this week’s AVCA Top 25 poll – including five in the top 15 – in No. 1 Nebraska, No. 3 Minnesota, No. 6 Wisconsin, No. 12 Stanford, No. 14 Purdue, No. 18 Colorado, No. 19 Ohio State, No. 20 Penn State, No. 22 Michigan State, No. 23 Michigan and No. 24 Oregon. Additionally, Illinois has faced one team that is receiving votes in Missouri State.


When the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) released its preseason poll on August 10, the Fighting Illini volleyball team once again made an appearance, coming in at No. 14 in the season’s opening top-25 poll.

Illinois returned 10 letterwinners, including a majority of its starters from its 2015 NCAA Sweet 16 team, including Big Ten All-Freshman Team honorees Jordyn Poulter and Ali Bastianelli, as well as junior libero Brandi Donnelly and hard-hitting seniors Katie Stadick,Michelle Strizak and Naya Crittenden. The Illini will also welcome in the No. 22-ranked recruiting class, including a pair of Top 100 Senior Aces in Kaylin Korte and Jacqueline Quade, as well as NC State transfer Blayke Hranicka.

Illinois’ highest opening rank came on Sept. 6, 1988, when the AVCA placed the Illini at No. 2 on the first week of the season following their first-ever trip to the NCAA Semifinals.

Illinois appeared in the top 25 of the AVCA’s first poll every season from 1986 to 1994, resurfaced at No. 14 in 1999 then at No. 19 in 2002 and 2004. The Illini have been ranked in the preseason top 25 in all-but-one season under Hambly, while receiving votes in 2013, with five top-10 projections in his eight seasons. The 2016 preseason ranking marks the Illini’s 19th year beginning the schedule in the top 25.


The 2016 Illinois volleyball recruiting class garnered a top-25 ranking, coming in as the No. 22 recruiting class in the nation as rated

The ranking continues the Illini recruiting success, with the 2016 class including a pair of Top 100 Senior Aces in outside hitters Kaylin Korte (No. 35) andJacqueline Quade (No. 86), as well as defensive specialists Annika Gereau and Caroline Welsh and defensive specialist/setter Kendal Kavanaugh. Korte and Quade were both also named to Volleyball Magazine’s Fab 50 list, featuring the top seniors in the class of 2016.

Quade made a splash in her Illini debut on Aug. 26-27, registering double figure kills in all three matches at the Illini Classic, as well as securing her first career double-double with 13 kills and 11 digs against Missouri State on Saturday night. Gereau also made appearances in all three matches, recording three digs, while Welsh delivered a service ace in her first attempt to go along with four digs.

Korte came off the bench at Oregon last Friday night to make her first appearance in an Illini jersey, recording two kills in the outing.

While not apart of the 2016 signing class, redshirt-freshman Beth Prince also made her Illini debut during the Illini Classic after being sidelined with an injury in 2015.


It is an entirely new staff that joins head coach Kevin Hambly on the sidelines this season as assistant coaches Jason Mansfield and Erin Lindsey, director of volleyball operationsJenni Bolduc and volunteer assistant coach Austin D’Amore were hired on during the offseason. Along with the new coaching staff, Misao Tanioka joins the team as the Illini’s athletic trainer.


The Illini have had tremendous success on opening night, going 33-10 all time in the first match of the season. Illinois has lost just one season opener since 1999, starting the new millennium with a 12-match winning streak from 2000-2011, before dropping the 2012 lid-lifter at Dayton. Illinois swept Arkansas at the Illini Classic to open the 2016 campaign.

Illinois is even more successful in home openers, going 37-6 all time in the first home match of the year. The Illini have not lost a home opener in over two decades; after falling to No. 18 New Mexico on Sept. 9, 1994, the Orange and Blue have won their last 21 straight home openers. Since making the move to Huff Hall in 1990, Illinois is 26-1 in the first home match of the season.


Illinois sophomore setter Jordyn Poulter was named Preseason All-Big Ten, as voted on by the Big Ten coaches. It was the first preseason honor of her career. Poulter made an immediate impact for the Illini in her freshman season, starting 29 of 32 matches at the setter position and earned Big Ten All-Freshman Team honors. She directed the Illini offense with 1,088 assists and recorded eight double-doubles on the season, highlighted by career highs of 59 assists and 21 digs vs. No. 4 Minnesota and a 34-assist, 10-dig performance in an NCAA Tournament first-round victory over Southern Illinois.

Poulter was also named to the B1G/Pac-12 All-Tournament Team and was a two-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week and Big Ten Setter of the Week selection. Following her breakout rookie campaign, she was selected as the Fighting Illini Newcomer of the Year.


Under the leadership of head coach Kevin Hambly, the Illinois volleyball program has seen a run of success in postseason play as the Illini have advanced to an NCAA Regional every season with the exception of one in his previous seven seasons at the helm. The Illini have advanced to the NCAA Regionals in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015, and also made  run to the National Championship match in 2011.


Illinois has 28 All-America honors among 17 players in school history. Nine of those players earned 16 honors with Kevin Hambly on staff. Three of the five First-Team All-Americans have come under Hambly (Laura DeBruler, Colleen Ward, Michelle Bartsch), while recent graduate Jocelynn Birks was a three-time All-American, finishing her 2015 senior campaign as an Honorable Mention selection, to go along with a 2013 Third Team honor with a Second Team award in 2014.

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