Saturday, December 03, 2011

Catching Up

There's been no end to recent activity in Illini sports. And we've been paying attention, even if we've neglected to write. Here are a few highlights and lowlights...

The men's basketball team started their non-conference season looking a bit raw and uncertain. But now, at 8-0, they've gained confidence. The win on the road against Maryland in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge proved they could come back in a tough environment. The win against a ranked Gonzaga team at home proved they can compete hard and build on the energy of Assembly Hall. Their are some really tough games coming up before what should be a brutal Big Ten season, but the Illini should be competitive.

The football team started a downward spiral in October that continued through November. The missed field goal in Happy Valley. Missed opportunities in efforts to come back against Michigan. A poor showing against Minnesota. And the understandable end of the Ron Zook era. A bowl bid is still likely, but these boys have lots of work to do, as does new AD Mike Thomas.

On the other side of post-season play, the Illini volleyball team claimed the #3 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, and swept both Central Michigan and Marquette at Huff Hall to head to the Sweet Sixteen, where they will meet Ohio State. This team has the potential to go deep in the tournament, and they are so much fun to watch.

After winning the Big Ten tournament, the Illini soccer team advanced past Notre Dame to the second round of the NCAA tournament before losing. But Coach Janet Rayfield garnered regional coach of the year honors for the second year in a row, and midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo was a player of the year finalist.

So despite a depressing finish to the football season, Illini Nation has plenty to be optimistic about... Go Illini!

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