Press Release courtesy of Illinois Athletics
The Fighting Illini volleyball team returns to Champaign this weekend for two of their final three regular season home matches in Huff Hall as the Orange and Blue host No. 12 Wisconsin on Friday (November 17) at 6 p.m. CT, followed by a 7 p.m. CTcontest on Saturday (November 18) against No. 7 Minnesota.
The Illini lead the all-time series against both the Badgers and the Gophers, holding a 47-37-1 advantage against Wisconsin, including falling in both meetings a season ago.
The Illini are 38-36-1 against Minnesota and last faced the Gophers on October 25 in a hard-fought five-set setback in Minneapolis.
Redshirt-freshman Beth Prince paced the Illini with a team-high 18 kills in that match, with sophomore Jacqueline Quade posting her second double-double of the season with 13 kills and 12 digs. Freshman Tyanna Omazic had a career night against the Gophers with a career-high 10 kills and equaled a career-high with nine blocks.
Junior Jordyn Poulter also notched her seventh double-double of the season and 17th of her carer with 49 assists and 12 digs, while freshman Morgan O’Brien registered a career-high 24 digs.
LAST TIME OUT
The Illinois volleyball team had a tough weekend trip to the state of Michigan, dropping matches to No. 8 Michigan State (3-0) on Friday and Michigan (3-2) on Saturday.
Redshirt-sophomore Beth Prince led the Illini offense against the Spartans, registering 13 kills, while freshman Megan Cooney added eight kills on the night. As a team, the Illini outblocked MSU, nine to four, with freshman Tyanna Omazic turning in a match-high seven blocks.
On Saturday, it was a back-and-forth affair with the Wolverines as the Illini fell just short in a five-set battle.
Sophomore Jacqueline Quade led all players with just her second 20-kill career match and totaled 21 kills on a .529 hitting percentage to pace the Illini, while junior Jordyn Poulterregistered her 19th career double-double and ninth of the season with a career-high 11 kills on a .529 hitting percentage, 52 assists, five digs and three blocks. Freshman Megan Cooney joined the duo in double figures with 10 kills and six blocks against the Wolverines.
As a team, the Illini totaled 16 blocks to Michigan’s 10, with junior Ali Bastianelli posting her seventh career double-digit block outing with a season-high 10 stuffs on the night.
Defensively, senior Brandi Donnelly led the Illini with 20 digs – her 31st career match with 20 digs or more.
TAMAS WELCOMES IN FIRST SIGNING CLASS
Head coach Chris Tamas announced the signing of two student-athletes to National Letters of Intent on November 9 as Diana Brown (Columbus, Ohio) and Taylor Kuper (Lenexa, Kansas) are set to join the Orange and Blue for the 2018 season.
Both signees have garnered 2017 American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Under Armour All-America accolades with Brown named to the second team and Kuper selected to the third team. The duo were also chosen as PrepVolleyball.com Senior Aces as Brown came in at No. 45 and Kuper named to the Top 150 list.
BASTIANELLI ONE OF B1G’S TOP BLOCKERS
With 522 total blocks in her three seasons at Illinois, junior Ali Bastianelli is in the top 10 of active career leaders in the NCAA, ranking eighth overall and is the third-highest Big Ten player behind Haleigh Washington of Penn State (534) and Michigan State’s Alyssa Garvelink (525).
Bastianelli is also just one of four players in the Big Ten with at least 500 career blocks and 500 career kills.
FRESHMAN DUO COMING ON STRONG
Freshmen Megan Cooney and Tyanna Omazic have stepped up their game in recent weeks, with the duo ranking in the top four in kills, hitting percentage and blocking on the team.
Cooney is third on the team with 54 kills for a 1.93 kills per set average on a .255 hitting percentage in that span, while also adding 21 blocks for the Illini.
Omazic ranks fourth with 51 kills for a 1.82 kills per set clip, while ranking second with a .364 hitting percentage – with only setter Jordyn Poulter ahead of her with a .369 attack percentage. The Lenexa, Kanas native has also paced the Illini with 39 blocks in the last seven matches for a 1.39 blocks per set mark.
ILLINI IN THE POLLS
In the most recent NCAA volleyball RPI, the Fighting Illini volleyball team held strong in the top 30 and sit at No. 27 in the newest rankings.
After debuting at No. 24 in the season’s first RPI on October 2, the Illini reached their season-high of No. 19 on October 16.
The Illini have also appeared in the receiving votes section of the AVCA Coaches Top 25 poll for 11-straight weeks after entering the rankings on September 4.
ILLINI IN THE NATIONAL RANKINGS
The Illini continued their strong blocking game and rank eighth in the NCAA and first in the Big Ten in blocks per set at a 2.97 clip as well as 13th in hitting percentage (.281) and 16th in total blocks (288.5).
Individually, junior Ali Bastianelli ranks fourth in the nation with 1.64 blocks per set, seventh with 154 total blocks and is 35th with a .386 hitting percentage.
Junior Jordyn Poulter also ranks 34th with a 10.87 assists per set average and is 64th with 1,054 total helpers, while senior Brandi Donnelly sits 124th with 4.35 digs per set nationally.
SUPER SENIOR BRANDI DONNELLY
In her time in the Orange and Blue, senior Brandi Donnelly has made a place for herself in the Illini record books. Donnelly currently sits third in career digs with 1,904, just 17 off of Ashley Edinger’s (2006-09) second place mark of 1,921. Jennifer Beltran (2010-13) holds the record with 2,220 digs in her four years.
One of the most durable Illini to ever suit up, Donnelly had started in all 115 matches the Illini had played in until being sidelined with an injury on October 6 against Purdue. She returned to action on November 1 against Northwestern and led the Illini with 14 digs in her first match back at libero.
In her four years, Donnelly has seen action in 431 of 433 sets she has suited up for, missing only two sets during her freshman campaign. The only matches Donnelly has not seen action in are this season’s seven matches when she was out with injury.
POULTER REACHES 3,000 CAREER ASSISTS
The quarterback of the Illini offense since she arrived on campus in 2015, junior Jordyn Poulter entered the top 10 in career assists earlier this season and with 52 helpers in a win over Iowa on October 20 became just the eighth player to reach 3,000 assists in program history.
She currently ranks eighth all-time with 3,332 helpers, with Betsy Eiserman (1999-02), who owns 3,578 assists in seventh place, next in Poulter’s path. Melissa Beitz (1996-99) ranks first in program history with 5,797 assists from 1996-99.
BLOCKIN’ BASTIANELLI IN THE RECORD BOOKS
In just three seasons, junior Ali Bastianelli has etched her named in the Illini record books and with eight blocks against No. 5 Minnesota on October 25, the Marysville, Mich., native became just the sixth player in program history to reach 500 career total blocks. She currently sits in a tie for fifth with Nancy Brookhart with 522 stuffs and is just 26 blocks away from entering in a tie for fourth with Anna Dorn (2010-14), while former player and director of operations Johannah Bangert owns the program record with 653 blocks from 2007-10.
Bastianelli has also entered the top 10 for career blocks assists this season and currently sits in third place with 478. Anna Dorn (2010-14) sits 52 block assists away in second place with 530, while Bangert also holds the career record for block assists at 613.
POULTER & QUADE DOUBLE UP
Together junior Jordyn Poulter and sophomore Jacqueline Quade own all 11 of the Illini’s double-doubles this season, with the setter turning in nine and the outside hitter registering two on the season, with the duo each posting double-doubles against Missouri State (Sept. 16) and No. 5 Minnesota (Oct. 25).
In her three seasons in Champaign, Poulter has totaled 19 career double-doubles, while Quade has tallied three in her two years in the Orange and Blue.
Along with the double-doubles, Poulter has come close to notching the program’s 13th triple-double on multiple occasions, first coming within three blocks of the mark with 47 assists, 12 digs and seven blocks – all match-highs – in a win over Indiana on October 7.
She turned in one of her best performances of the season against No. 7 Nebraska and was just two blocks shy with 52 assists, 14 digs and eight blocks in the match.
Poulter again flirted with history when the junior registered a career-high 11 kills on a .529 hitting percentage, 52 assists, five digs and three blocks at Michigan last Saturday (November 11).
TAMAS NAMED EIGHTH VOLLEYBALL HEAD COACH
Following the departure of former head coach Kevin Hambly to Stanford in January, Director of Athletes Josh Whitman selected Chris Tamas as the new head coach of the Fighting Illini volleyball program on February 10, 2017. He is the eighth head coach in the history of the program.
Tamas came to Illinois following many years learning from some of the game’s great coaches, including John Cook at Nebraska and former U.S. National Team coaches Hugh McCutcheon and Ron Larsen. In all, Tamas is in his ninth year of collegiate coaching including two years at Nebraska, two years at Cal Poly, two years at Minnesota and two years at UC-Riverside.
Tamas is a 2003 graduate of the University of the Pacific with a degree in sports sciences. He was a four-year starter for the Tigers and a unanimous AVCA All-American first team selection and team MVP during his 2003 senior season. In four yearswith the U.S. Men’s National Team (1999, 2003, 2005-06), Tamas made 34 appearances, and, in 1999, helped the squad to a silver medal at the World Junior Championships in Havana. As national team captain in 2003, Tamas helped lead the United State to a bronze medal at the World University Games in Daegu, South Korea.
A training camp invitee for the U.S. squad that eventually captured the 2008 Olympic gold medal, Tamas also helped U.S. teams to silver at the 2005 World Grand Champions Cup in Japan and, as a setter, to a gold at the 2006 NORCECA Championships in Mexicali, Mexico.
As a professional, Tamas competed for six years overseas with clubs Protect Eye Orion (Netherlands), Antigos Alunos (Portugal), Real Grupo (Spain), Erdemir (Turkey), Dionysos (Cyprus) and Isku (Finland). In Finland and Cyprus, Tamas helped his clubs to national cup championships.