Illinois Gears Up for Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge in Seattle

  0 volleymob | August 30th, 2018 | Big Ten, College - Women's Indoor, News

Courtesy: Illinois Athletics

Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge
Match 4:
No. 21 Colorado
Friday, August 31, 2018 | 7 p.m. CT | Seattle, Wash. | Alaska Airlines Arena
TV/Video: Pac-12 Networks | Radio: WDWS 1400 | Livestats
Match 5:
No. 13 Washington
Saturday, September 1, 2018 | 10 p.m. CT | Seattle, Wash. | Alaska Airlines Arena
TV/Video: Pac-12 Networks | Radio: WDWS 1400 | Livestats
Full Match Notes Illinois | Colorado | Washington
Statistics Illinois | Colorado | Washington
Series History Colorado: Series tied, 4-4 | Last Match: Illinois lost, 2-3, on 9/92017 | Streak: Lost 2 | Results
Washington: Illinois leads, 2-1 | Last: Illinois won, 3-2, on 12/2/2017 | Streak: Won 1 | Results

The Illinois volleyball team will participate in the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge for the fifth-straight season this weekend, traveling to Seattle, Wash., to face Colorado and host Washington on August 31-September 1.

Illinois owns a 1-7 all-time record in the Challenge, with its lone win coming over Colorado in 2015.

The Illini hosted the prestigious event for the first time last season, where they fell to then-defending National Champion Stanford and Colorado in a pair of hard-fought battles.

The Illini are set to face a pair of familiar opponents this weekend in Colorado – who makes its fifth-straight appearance on the UI schedule – and Washington, who the Illini defeated in last seaosn’s NCAA Tournament second round. The Huskies also have a familiar face on the coaching staff with former Illini assistant Jason Mansfield, who coached in Champaign during the previous two seasons.

The Illini are tied in the all-time series with the Bluffs, with both teams winning four matches, however UC has won the last two match-ups.

The Orange and Blue hold a 2-1 advantage in the all-time series with the Huskies, with the last meeting coming last December in a dramatic come-from-behind five-set victory to send the Illini to the NCAA Sweet 16 for the program’s 17th Sweet 16 appearance in its history.

For the 22nd time in program history and the third time in the last four seasons, the Illini opened the season with a perfect 3-0 record, sweeping their competition in Colorado. The Illini opened the season with a quick straight-sets win (25-15, 25-22, 25-16) over UNCW on Friday morning, before earning back-to-back five-set victories at No. 25 Colorado State (25-16, 25-14, 18-25, 25-27, 11-15) and at Northern Colorado (23-25, 25-23, 25-19, 20-25, 15-12).

Junior Jacqueline Quade paced the Illini offense with 59 kills on the weekend, to go along with 25 digs and a team-high seven aces, while junior newcomer Ashlyn Fleming led the squad with 13 blocks and senior Ali Bastianelli turned in 12 stuffs.

Senior Jordyn Poulter directed the offense with 139 assists and also ranked second on the team with 34 digs en route to a pair of double-doubles.

Sophomore Morgan O’Brien, who took over the libero duties after the departure of former Illini standout Brandi Donnelly, was strong defensively with 60 digs for a 4.62 digs per set average.

Junior Jacqueline Quade and sophomore Megan Cooney led the Illini to a five-set win over Northern Colorado on Saturday night and register career highs in the process.

Quade turned in a match-high 22 kills and had career-highs of 14 digs and four aces for her first double-double of the season and fifth of her career, while sophomore Megan Cooney had a career-high 19 kills.

Looking to build on a NCAA Sweet 16 appearance last season, the Illinois volleyball team opened the 2018 campaign ranked No. 12 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Preseason Poll and after going undefeated during the opening weekend moved up one spot at No. 11.

Illinois is joined by six other Big Ten schools ranked the AVCA Poll this week and are the fifth-highest behind No. 3 Minnesota, No. 5 Nebraska, No. 6 Penn State and No. 8 Wisconsin, with No. 20 Purdue and No. 23 Michigan also making appearances in the rankings. Additionally, Michigan State and Ohio State are receiving votes.

Along with their conference foes, the Illini have five other opponents in the top-25, including this weekend’s foes No. 13 Washington and No. 21 Colorado as well as last weekend’s opponent No. 25 Colorado State. UI will also face No. 15 Creighton and No. 17 Northern Iowa during the Illini Classic.

One of the premier blockers in the nation, senior Ali Bastianelli  returns as the NCAA active career leader with a 1.57 blocks per set average and 579 total blocks in her four seasons at Illinois.

The quarterback of the Illini offense since she arrived on campus in 2015, senior Jordyn Poulter entered the top 10 in career assists during the 2017 campaign and with 52 helpers in a win over Iowa on October 20, 2017 became just the eighth player to reach 3,000 assists in program history.

She currently ranks sixth all-time with 3,774 helpers, with Lizzie Bazzetta (2005-08), who owns 3,847 assists in fifth place, next in Poulter’s path. 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 sixth player in program history to reach 500 career total blocks last season.

With 12 blocks over the weekend, Bastianelli jumped into second place with 579 career blocks, while former player and director of operations Johannah Bangert owns the program record with 653 blocks from 2007-10.

Bastianelli also entered the top 10 for career blocks assists last season and currently sits in a tie for second place with Anna Dorn (2010-14) with 530, while Bangert also holds the career record for block assists at 613.

The Illini return 12 members from the 2017 NCAA Sweet 16 squad, including American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-Americans Jordyn Poulter and Ali Bastianelli, who join classmate Blayke Hranicka for their senior season in Champaign.

Redshirt-junior Beth Prince, juniors Jacqueline Quade and Caroline Welsh and sophomores Megan Cooney, Morgan O’Brien, Emmaline Walters, Kylie Bruder, Emily Hollowell and Lexie Smith complete the returning roster.

Joining the squad for 2018 are freshmen Diana Brown and Taylor Kuper and junior Ashlyn Fleming, who comes to Illinois following two impressive season at the University of the Pacific, the alma mater of head coach Chris Tamas and volunteer assistant Jen Tamas.

The 2018 schedule features 31 matches, including 13 matches at Huff Hall. This season the Illini will face off against 13 NCAA Tournament qualifiers, including six Sweet 16 teams, two Final Four foes and two matches against 2017 National Champion Nebraska.

Schedule Notes:
• Ranked in the final AVCA poll: 14 matches vs. 10 teams, 1 match vs. RV
• RPI Top 50: 18 matches vs. 14 teams
• 2017 Conference Champions/Tournament Champions: 6 (Colorado State, Bowling Green, Cleveland State, Creighton, Penn State, Nebraska)

The Illini have had tremendous success on opening night, going 35-10 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 UNCW in Fort Collins, Colo., to open the 2018 season on Friday morning.

Illinois is even more successful in home openers, going 37-7 all time in the first home match of the year. The Orange and Blue have won 20 their last 21 home openers, falling for the first time in 20 years last season to then-defending NCAA champion and No. 4-ranked Stanford in the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge. Since making the move to Huff Hall in 1990, Illinois is 25-2 in the first home match of the season.

The Illini’s 2018 home opener is set for September 14,  as they host Lipscomb at 5 p.m. CT in UI’s first match of the Illini Classic.

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