Press Release courtesy of Illinois Athletics
ILLINOIS VS. THE FIELD
The Illinois volleyball team will wrap up a three-match road trip with a midweek match-up against No. 5 Minnesota on Wednesday (October 5) in Maturi Pavilion in Minneapolis. First serve is slated for 8 p.m. CT and will be broadcasted on Big Ten Network.
The Illini lead the all-time series with the Gophers, 38-35-1, but fell in the only meeting between the two teams a season ago in a 3-0 setback on November 11, 2016 in Huff Hall.
LAST TIME OUT
The Illini split its weekend road swing, turning in a gutsy performance in Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Friday night, fighting off three-straight match points and ending the fifth set with five unanswered points for a 3-2 (25-23, 21-25, 25-19, 23-25, 16-14) win over Iowa.
The Illini had four players reach double digit kills, led by a career-high 16 kills on a .314 hitting percentage from freshman Megan Cooney, with sophomore Jacqueline Quade joining her with a team-high 16 kills on the night.
Junior Jordyn Poulter continued her impressive play and came within two blocks of the program’s 13th triple-double with 52 assists, 14 digs and eight blocks to go along with an ace.
Defensively, freshman Morgan O’Brien led the Illini with a career-high 19 digs
The Illini then brought the battle to No. 7 Nebraska, before falling to the Huskers in four sets (19-25, 26-24, 25-20, 25-17) on Saturday night in the Devaney Center.
Junior Ali Bastianelli registered her fifth-straight double-digit kill outing and 12th of the season with a team-high 13 kills with no errors in 17 swings for a .765 hitting percentage to go along with a team-high five blocks.
In their last 10 matches, the Illinois volleyball team owns a 7-3 record and until’s Saturday setback to No. 7 Nebraska, the Illini had won four-straight conference matches for the first time since 2015.
The Illini own four conference road wins and are 7-2 overall in away matches to lead the Big Ten in road victories.
ILLINI IN THE POLLS
In the most recent NCAA volleyball RPI, the Fighting Illini volleyball team held strong in the top 25 and sits at No. 23 in the newest rankings.
After debuting at No. 24 in the season’s first RPI on October 2, the Illini moved up to No. 22 the following week on October 9 and 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 eight-straight weeks after entering the rankings on September 4.
POULTER DOING IT ALL
Junior setter Jordyn Poulter has been a catalyst in leading the Fighting Illini this season and has upped her game since senior Brandi Donnelly went down with an injury on October 6.
In the last five matches, the Aurora, Colo., native has totaled 216 assists, 55 digs and 24 blocks to average 11.37 helpers, 2.89 digs and 1.26 stuffs per set – ranking second on the team in both digs and blocks.
ILLINI IN THE NATIONAL RANKINGS
The Illini continued their strong blocking game and rank ninth in the NCAA in blocks per set at a 2.97 clip as well as 11th in hitting percentage (.291), 26th in total blocks (217) and 37th in kills per set (13.88).
Individually, junior Ali Bastianelli paces the nation with 1.77 blocks per set, ranks fifth with a .443 hitting percentage and is sixth with 124 total blocks.
Junior Jordyn Poulter also ranks 29th with a 11.08 assists per set average and is 74th with 809 total helpers, while junior Blayke Hranicka also sits 45th with a .379 attack percentage.
ILLINI FACING OFF AGAINST TOP FOES IN 2017
The Fighting Illini volleyball consistently plays a demanding schedule year in and year out, and 2017 is no different as Illinois has played the 26th-most difficult schedule this season.
This season, the Illini have taken on seven teams that appear in this week’s AVCA Top 25 poll – including six in the top 10 – in No. 1 Penn State, No. 2 Stanford, No. 5 Minnesota, No. 7 Nebraska, No. 9 Wisconsin, No. 10 Michigan State and No. 17 Purdue, while also taking on four teams that are receiving votes in Western Kentucky, Missouri State, Colorado and Michigan.
The Illini own the second-toughest schedule in the NCAA moving forward with future foes, while between past and future opposition, Illinois holds the 14th-toughest schedule in the NCAA.
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 1,827, just 94 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. In her four years, Donnelly has seen action in 415 of 417 sets she has suited up for, missing only two sets during her freshman campaign.
POULTER NEARING 3,000 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 Friday night became just the eighth player to reach 3,000 assists in program history.
She currently ranks eighth all-time with 3,087 helpers, with Betsy Eiserman (1999-02), who owns 3,578 assists and ranks 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. After entering the top 10 for career block assists earlier this season, Bastianelli is currently fourth with 451 block assists. Kristin Henriksen (1990-93) sits just seven stuffs away in third place, while former player and director of operations Johannah Bangert owns the program record with 613 block assists from 2007-10.
Bastianelli has also entered the top 10 for total career blocks this season and currently sits in seventh place with 492 blocks. She needs just seven more to enter a tie for sixth with Denise Fracaro (1982-85) at 499. Bangert also holds the career record for total blocks at 653.
ILLINI SET HITTING PERCENTAGE RECORD AGAINST WKU
The Illini set a new single-match hitting percentage school record en route to a sweep of No. 24 Western Kentucky on Saturday as part of the Cardinal Classic. Swinging .652 as a team, the Illini led by a .917 hitting percentage from junior Ali Bastianelli.
Topping the previous school record of .635 set back on September 1, 1992 at Northwestern, the Illini were hitting on all cylinders on Saturday morning, finishing each set with an attack percentage north of .600, with a first-set mark of .708, a second-set clip of .632 and a third-set .609 percentage. The best single-match team hitting percentage during the rally-scoring era, which began in 2001, was a .483 performance against Murray State at Huff Hall on September 17, 2016.
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 years with 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.