Illinois volleyball ranked No. 1 in the nation

Illinois sits atop AVCA Coaches poll for first time in school history

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – For the first time in school history, Illinois volleyball is ranked number one in the AVCA Coaches poll. The Illini, one of just three undefeated teams left in the nation, moved up two spots following weekend victories at No. 9Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Illinois, who is off to its second best start to a season in school history, received 55 of a possible 60 first-place votes with Pacific-12 teams occupying spots 2-6 and three other Big Ten teams among the top 10. UCLA, Washington, California and USC are in spots 2-5 with each receiving at least one first-place vote. The rest of the top 10 includes Stanford, Nebraska, Texas, Penn State and Minnesota.

A total of seven Big Ten teams remain in the top 25, including Purdue, who at No. 12, is the other unbeaten team left in the rankings. The Fighting Illini and Boilermakers square off on Saturday night at Huff Hall in Champaign. The Illini have their conference home opener on Friday night vs. Indiana (8-6). Michigan checks in at No. 17 in this week’s rankings while Ohio State is at No. 24. Non-conference opponents Dayton and Louisville are among those receiving votes.

Prior to this week, the Illini’s top ranking came in the 1988 preseason poll where they started the year at No. 2. Illinois is among the top three for three straight weeks, marking the first time in school history that Illinois has spent multiple weeks in the top three in a season in school history.

“It’s a nice honor for our program and we appreciate the recognition,” said Illinois head coach Kevin Hambly. “However, our focus is on being there at the end of the season. The Big Ten is loaded with great teams and we want to continue the process of getting better each week. The rankings are great for the fans and the media, but honestly, it’s not something we put a lot of stock in at this point in the season.”

Bartsch, Johnson honored by the Big Ten

Illinois outside hitter Michelle Bartsch was named the Big Ten co-Player of the Week following her performances over the weekend. This is the second such honor this season for the senior from Maryville, Ill. Bartsch had a pair of double-doubles with 23 kills and 10 digs in a five-set victory at No. 9 Minnesota and 10 kills and 10 digs in a three-set triumph at Wisconsin. She ranks sixth in the Big Ten in kills at 4.06 per set and 10th in the league in digs at 3.41 per set.  Bartsch shares the honor with Gina Mancuso of Nebraska.

Junior middle blocker Erin Johnson was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week. Johnson hit .435 with 11 kills and a career-high 10 blocks in the win over Minnesota and earns the honor for the first time in her career. Johnson ranks third in the conference in hitting percentage at .408, which is on pace to rank among the best in school history for a single season.

AVCA Coaches poll .pdf