Illini Year In Review

Illini Year In Review

Our look back at the Illini's 2010-11 school year

Check out our year-end grades for each sport here

Top male athletes

1. Mikel Leshoure, football. After roaring through 2010 season, junior All-America running back headed to NFL's Lions.

2. Andrew Riley, track & field. NCAA indoor 60 hurdles champion came close in outdoor 110 hurdles, too.

3. Tyler Mizoguchi, gymnastics. The 5-foot-2 mighty mite won NCAA parallel bars title, finished second in all-around.

4. Luke Guthrie, golf. Junior's third and fourth individual titles of school year were at Big Ten Championships, NCAA regional.

5. Daniel Ribeiro, gymnastics. Senior capped stellar career with second NCAA title in pommel horse.

6. Demetri McCamey, basketball. Senior point guard led team in scoring for third straight year, ranked 10th in nation in assists.

7. Dennis Nevolo, tennis. Junior reached NCAA Round of 16 singles to become first-time All-American.

8. Jimmy Kennedy, wrestling. Senior 141-pounder a three-time All-American who went 120-24 in career.

9. Nathan Scheelhaase, football. School's top freshman on target to set a slew of quarterback records.

10. John Anderson, baseball. Former walk-on pitcher won eight times, including victories in Big Ten, NCAA tournaments.

Top female athletes

1. Vanessa DiBernardo, soccer. Freshman phenom could end up being Illini's best in the sport.

2. Melissa Fernandez, gymnastics. Senior's three All-America honors at 2011 NCAA meet were a school record.

3. Danielle Zymkowitz, softball. Senior second baseman first Illini in her sport to become a two-time All-American.

4. Colleen Ward, volleyball. Junior transfer from Florida a second-team All-American in UI debut season.

5. Karisma Penn, basketball. Sophomore forward ranked in Big Ten's top five in scoring, rebounding, blocks.

6. Hillary Haen, volleyball. Third-team All-America setter finished career fourth on school assists chart.

7. Ashley Kelly, track & field. Big Ten's indoor 400-meter champ an outdoor All-American in event.

8. Allison Buckley, gymnastics. Senior finished career with school-record 62 event titles, three All-America awards.

9. Rachael White, tennis. All-Big Ten first-teamer nationally ranked in singles, doubles for entire dual-meet season.

10. Jessica Davis, softball. Sophomore All-Big Ten first-teamer led Illini in homers (14) and RBI (46).

Top area athletes

1. Mikel Leshoure, football. Remember when some doubted Centennial grad could make impact at next level?

2. Alyssa Petruzzello, swimming. Centennial grad became UI's all-time eighth-fastest individual in 100 butterfly.

3. Kyle Moe, gymnastics. Champaign Central grad, a rings specialist, selected one of team captains for next season.

4. Malcolm Taylor, track & field. Urbana Uni High grad No. 2 Illini in outdoor 800, member of UI's fastest 1,600, 3,200 relays this spring.

5. Clayton Parkhill, golf. A 3-0 record at Big Ten Match Play was highlight of Champaign Central grad's final Illini season.

Top freshmen

1. Vanessa DiBernardo, soccer. Big Ten Freshman of Year led league in goals, points.

2. Nathan Scheelhaase, football. QB a six-time Big Ten Freshman of Week, fourth-team Freshman All-American.

3. Jennifer Bonilla, volleyball. Big Ten All-Freshman Team pick shattered school record for single-season digs.

4. Matthew Bane, track & field. Pole vaulter won title in first Big Ten indoor meet, tied for third outdoors.

5. Thomas Pieters, men's golf. In first NCAA Championships, tied for 20th in medal play and was lone Illini winner in match play.

6. Amber See, women's gymnastics. Illini's third Big Ten vault champ, tying for crown with career-high 9.900 score.

7. Stephanie Richartz, track & field. Needed only one year to break school records for indoor, outdoor pole vault.

8. Megan Pawloski, soccer. Big Ten All-Freshman Team pick a deadly shot, scoring five goals in 18 attempts.

9. Jackson Morse, wrestling. In sport where first-year redshirting common, true freshman qualified for NCAA Championships.

10. Jereme Richmond, men's basketball. McDonald's All-American wound up on Big Ten's All-Freshman Team.

11. Amber Moore, women's basketball. Broke team's freshman three-point field-goal record with 65, fifth-best single-season total in program history.

12. Jordan Valdez, men's gymnastics. Reached individual event finals in two events at Big Ten Championships.

13. Akeem Spence, football. Defensive tackle complemented first-round draft pick Corey Liuget.

14. Courtney Pope, swimming. First freshman in coach Sue Novitsky's 17-year tenure to anchor four relays at Big Ten Championships; each recorded school all-time top-10 times.

15. Ember Schuldt, women's golf. Illini's top scorer in Big Ten Championships, NCAA Central Regional.

Most publicized

1. Demetri McCamey, men's basketball. No Illini athlete was under more scrutiny, or subject to more opinion, than this lightning-rod senior point guard.

2. Nathan Scheelhaase, football. Don't be surprised if starting QB moves to top of this list next year.

3. Ron Guenther, athletic director. Months of speculation on future of department's leader finally ended with mid-May announcement he'll retire July 1.

4. Jereme Richmond, men's basketball. Years from now, fans might wonder what the fuss was all about with this troubled one-and-done freshman.

5. Paul Petrino, football. New offensive coordinator much in demand by media as he revived unit in 2010.

Deserved more pub

1. Corey Liuget, football. Defensive tackle's breakout season had Chargers snapping him up with No. 18 overall pick.

2. Hollie Pinchback, softball. Three-time All-Big Ten pick leaves as No. 2 Illini in career RBI.

3. Chris Pack, baseball. Where would NCAA regional finalists have been without workhorse reliever's eight wins and four saves?

4. Chad Wiest, men's gymnastics. 2011 Big Ten champ in floor exercise twice was third in his signature event at NCAAs.

5. Michelle Bartsch, volleyball. All-America third-teamer ranked seventh in Big Ten in kills per set.

6. Amy Allin, women's tennis. All-Big Ten second-teamer led Illini in singles wins (23), including team-high five at No. 1 position.

7. Pete Cappetta, baseball. Illini's leading hitter finished second in Big Ten batting race.

8. Danielle Kot, women's soccer. Four-year starter at center-back led Illini defense that held opponents to one or fewer goals in 15 matches.

9. Erin Lamb, women's swimming. Sophomore led Illini with eight first-place finishes.

10. Anthony Santella, football. Previously much-maligned punter ranked 14th in nation with 44.78-yard average.

11. Centrese McGee, women's basketball. Played a key but underrated role — mostly as a defender — as a freshman.

12. Mike Davis, men's basketball. Showed great veteran leadership in final season of up-and-down career.

All interview

1. Vic Koenning, football. Drawl, humor, honesty make defensive coordinator a must-stop after every practice and game.

2. Tyler Griffey, men's basketball. The next Stan Van Gundy — or Mark Twain — if he pursues career in media.

3. Laura DeBruler, volleyball. HQ mag cover girl showed off her writing skills, too.

4. Dan Hartleb, baseball. Conducted NCAA tournament phone interview with us while sitting in Fullerton dugout between really important games.

5. Scott Langley, men's golf. Starred at U.S. Open, then played a round with our Paul Klee.

6. Casey McMurray, baseball. For candidly discussing sensitive physical ailment that made 2010 season a pain in the you know what.

7. Jeff Allen, football. Pound-for-pound (305), the best talker on campus.

8. Meyers Leonard, men's basketball. We've been a big fan since he took us on a tour of his hometown of Robinson.

9. Roy Kalmanovich, men's tennis. Not scared to share shoe fetish in explaining late-season surge.

10. Brian Cardinal, Rod's son. Sure, he went to Purdue. But checking in with WDWS soon after winning an NBA title gets him on this list.

Best moments

1. Matt Dittman belted Illini's second walkoff homer in two days against Indiana, clinching share of Big Ten title in final game of regular season.

2. Illini's on-field celebration after a scrapbook football win against Northwestern at Wrigley Field.

3. D.J. Richardson's back-to-back threes in a win against UNLV, the Illini's first NCAA tournament victory since 2006.

4. Men's 400-meter relay unit — Andrew Riley, Azeez Shogbuyi, Josh Zinzer and Stanley Azie — broke 18-year-old school record with winning time of 39.17 at Drake Relays.

5. With 14 seconds left in match against Purdue, Vanessa DiBernardo scored school-record fourth goal in 4-1 win.

6. Senior Elizabeth Boyle broke a 29-year-old school record in the 10,000 meters at the Stanford Invitational.

7. Gymnast Melissa Fernandez became first Illini female All-American in all-around by tying for fifth at NCAA Championships.

8. With Big Ten Network cameras on hand, Hollie Pinchback hit a two-run walkoff homer to lift Illini to a 5-4 victory against Northwestern.

9. On Senior Day, Allison Buckley broke Olympian Nancy Thies' school record for career event titles in women's gymnastics.

10. Senior golfer Chris DeForest eagled second playoff hole in sectional qualifier to punch ticket to U.S. Open.

11. Freshman Stephanie Richartz became the first Illini female pole vaulter to clear 13 feet with a mark of 13-1 3/4 in April.

12. With Dennis Nevolo, it was take your pick; junior tennis player twice knocked off top-ranked players this school year.

13. Sophomore Stephanie Morgan broke 20-year-old Drake Relays record in 1,500 meters with 4:15.90 clocking.

Worst moments

1. Men's basketball: Illinois-Chicago 57, Illinois 54. Illini led 49-41 with 7:30 left. UIC entered with a 288 RPI. Game was in Chicago. Need we say more?

2. Men's basketball: Jereme Richmond. After four years of coverage (overexposure?), the Waukegan wunderkind left after one unfulfilling season.

3. Women's basketball: Michigan 58, Illinois 55. Illini managed to lose when they allowed Wolverines to score on an inbounds play with a second to play. Culmination of a 12-game losing streak.

4. Football: Minnesota 38, Illinois 34. Ten-point lead with eight minutes left wasn't safe against 1-9 opponent.

5. Baseball: Illinois Benedictine 8, Illinois 6. Squandered 5-2 lead against first-year NAIA member.

6. Baseball: Apparently, winning a Big Ten batting title wasn't enough to earn Justin Parr All-Big Ten. On any of the three teams.

7. Volleyball: Cincinnati 3, Illinois 2. After winning first two sets, fifth-ranked Illini couldn't close out Bearcats in Big Ten/Big East Challenge.

8. Soccer: Connecticut 2, Illinois 1. Despite dominating shots and corner kicks, Illini couldn't capitalize and lost in double overtime.

9. Men's tennis: Ohio State 7, Illinois 0. Buckeyes continued to increase gap on one-time Big Ten power.

10. Softball: Minnesota 3, Illinois 2. Clinging to hopes of an NCAA at-large bid, Illini lost on two-out walkoff single.


1. After 19 years, Ron Guenther set to retire as Illini AD on July 1.

2. Illini grid great Red Grange selected Big Ten's No. 1 icon by BTN.

3. Big Ten adopted two-division format for football starting in 2011; Illinois in Leaders Division.

4. Illini and Northwestern played first football game at Chicago's Wrigley Field in 40 years.

5. Mikel Leshoure broke the school single-game rushing record with 330 yards against the Wildcats.

6. Junior golfer Luke Guthrie broke school record for single-season stroke average with 71.36.

7. Danielle Zymkowitz became softball program's first two-time National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-American.

8. Demetri McCamey became the second player in Big Ten history to post 1,600 points and 700 assists in his career.

9. College Football Hall of Famer Al Brosky, who had at least one interception in 15 consecutive games, died Nov. 27 at age 82.

10. Hall of Famer Mike Hebert, UI's all-time winningest volleyball coach, called it a career after 15 seasons at Minnesota.

11. Senior middle blocker Johannah Bangert became volleyball program's career blocks leader.

12. Football team won a bowl game for first time since 1999, defeating Baylor in the Texas Bowl.

13. Illini men's basketball team shot school-record 70.8 percent in blowout win against Northwestern.

14. Women's golf team shot 3-under-par 285 at Ptarmigan Ram Fall Classic in September, best round in relation to par in program history.

15. Junior Brittany McGowan broke school records in the 50- and 100-yard butterfly on third day of Big Ten Championships,

16. In the 500th baseball game at Illinois Field, which opened in 1988, the Illini defeated Illinois State 14-2 on March 30,

17. On Jan. 5, UI announced that admission would be free for most of its Olympic sports.

18. After getting engaged May 31, John Anderson pitched Illini to NCAA regional win four days later.

Best former Illini

1. Steve Stricker, PGA. Ten-time Tour winner rose to No. 4 in world after Memorial victory.

2. Brandon Lloyd, NFL. Bronco revived career in 2010, leading NFL in receiving yards and earning second-team All-Pro.

3. Kevin Anderson, ATP. Former NCAA doubles champ reached career-high world ranking of No. 33 in early April.

4. Rashard Mendenhall, NFL. Steelers running back rushed for 1,000 yards each of last two seasons.

5. Deron Williams, NBA. Will point guard still be with Nets when they move to Brooklyn in 2012?

6. D.A. Points, PGA. In third year as Tour regular won first title at Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in February — becoming fast friends with Bill Murray along the way.

7. Angela Bizzarri. Three-time NCAA distance running champ has PR'd in two events this spring while training with Mammoth Track Club in California.

8. Ella Masar, WPS. Urbana native led Chicago Red Stars in goals, points during 2010 season.

9. Nate Mast. Turning Parkland College into a basketball power.

10. Jerry Colangelo, USA Basketball. Chairman of group's board of directors leads bid for 2012 Olympic gold.

11. Dick Butkus. Linebacker legend tackles steroids issue among teen athletes with his "I Play Clean" campaign.

12. David Diehl, NFL. Mr. Durable saw consecutive start streak as Giants offensive lineman end at 120 regular season games in November due to injuries.

Top recruits

1. C.J. Maestas, men's gymnastics. At 19, already a member of the U.S. Senior National Team and reigning Winter Cup Challenge still rings champion.

2. Liz McMahon, volleyball. Ohioan the program's top-rated recruit ever at No. 3.

3. Charlie Tilson, baseball. State's top prospect scooped up in second round of draft by Cardinals.

4. Nathan Loe, men's track & field. Georgian a bronze medalist in hammer throw at 2010 USATF Junior Olympics,

5. Jon Davis, football. Four-star tight end from Louisville decommitted from Kentucky.

6. Caleb Ervin, wrestling. Three-time Kentucky prep champ won 199 of 206 career matches.

7. Melissa Kopinski, women's tennis. Five-star prospect from Palos Hills ranked 17th by

8. Ross Guignon, men's tennis. Five-star prospect from Kansas ranked 20th by

9. Mycheal Henry, men's basketball. Chicago Orr Academy wing a consensus top 75 recruit.

10. Reilly O'Toole, football. Wheaton Warrenville South QB our reigning All-State Player of Year.

11. Ashley Spencer, women's track & field. Led Indianapolis Lawrence North to share of state title with two runner-up hurdles finishes, two relay wins.

12. Catherine Meyer, women's soccer. Product of nationally successful Dallas Texans Soccer Club.

13. Jordan Naleway, women's gymnastics. Vernon Hills native 11th in all-around at 2010 Junior Olympic Level 10 nationals.

14. Ivory Crawford, women's basketball. Ranked 88th nationally by one scouting service, could provide nice backcourt boost.

15. Shelese Arnold, softball. Once struck out Tennessee state-record 28 batters in 14-inning game.

16. Alison Meng, swimming. Five-time Wisconsin state prep champion a 2010 NISCA/Speedo All-American in 100 backstroke.

Best crowds

1. Standing-room-only crowd of 4,141 — the first volleyball sellout at Huff Hall since 1992 — roared its approval as Illini ended Penn State's record 65-match Big Ten winning streak.

2. "Great Escape" crowd of 2,560, the second-largest wrestling attendance in Huff Hall history, cheered Illini to 23-12 win against Indiana.

3. Baseball team treated season-high crowd of 2,019 to 13-9 comeback victory against Ohio State.

4. Enthusiastic Huff Hall crowd of 699 made noise three times its size in cheering Illini men's gymnastics team to Big Ten title.

5. On Dec. 4, an entire section of Illinois fans made Key Arena in Seattle a home-away-from-home on the West Coast. That Bruce Weber's Illini rolled Gonzaga made the trip worth it.

6. Soccerfest crowd showed up 1,328 strong — fifth-largest attendance in Illinois Soccer Stadium history — to see Illini edge Indiana 2-1.

Worst crowds

1. Feb. 10, 2011. Indiana at Illinois, women's basketball. A robust turnout of 670 watched the Illini lose to one of the Big Ten's worst teams.

2. Dec. 12, 2010. Northern Colorado at Illinois, men's basketball. A total of 5,157 hardy souls made it to the Assembly Hall in horrible wintry weather.

3. May 3, 2011. SIU vs. Illinois at Marion, baseball. No trouble finding a place to stretch out at 3,498-seat Rent One Park when 247 showed up to watch state rivals.

4. Dec. 29, 2010. Texas Bowl. So much for Baylor bringing in a bunch of fans. Listed attendance: 68,211. Actual attendance: 35,000.

5. April 16, 2011. Illini Spring Classic. Rare home match for men's golf team ruined by wintry weather.

Best games

1. Volleyball: Illinois 3, Penn State 2. Illini put on inspired performance to topple No. 2 Nittany Lions in five sets, ending Penn State's record 65-match Big Ten winning streak.

2. Football: Michigan 67, Illinois 65. Highest-scoring game in Big Ten history needed three overtimes to settle.

3. Baseball: Illinois 7, Cal State-Fullerton 5. Fourth-seeded Illini stunned top-seeded Titans on their home field in a regional elimination matchup.

4. Men's basketball: Illinois 79, North Carolina 67. While the Orange Krush gave Roy Williams the business, the Illini showed ACC champs what was up.

5. Men's gymnastics. Illini won third straight Big Ten Championships title in convincing fashion in home gym.

6. Men's track & field. Illini saved best for last, scoring 14 points on final day of NCAA Championships to move up to tie for 12th place — program's highest finish since 1988.

7. Softball: Illinois 2, Minnesota 0. Illini hurler Pepper Gay outdueled Big Ten Freshman of Year Sara Moulton in nine-inning thriller.

8. Men's golf: Kepler Intercollegiate. Co-medalist Luke Guthrie's birdie on final hole capped Illini comeback for share of team crown.

9. Women's gymnastics: Illinois 195.225, Michigan State 195.000. Scoring school-record 49.325 in balance beam, Illini rallied in final rotation to edge host Spartans.

10. Football: Illinois 48, Northwestern 27. A) It clinched a bowl. B) It was at Wrigley.

Key injuries

1. Laura DeBruler, volleyball. Sweet 16 team always will wonder what might have been if all-time kills leader had played full season.

2. Paul Ruggeri, men's gymnastics. Three-time NCAA champion suffered season-ending ankle injury in early February.

3. Jordan Blanton, wrestling. 2010 All-American lost after nine matches with season-ending back injury.

4. Corey Lewis, football. ACL tear during 2010 spring drills cost Illini starting offensive tackle last fall.

5. Bryan Roberts, baseball. After saving nine games in 2010, closer lost for 2011 due to elbow surgery.

6. Kassidy Brown, women's soccer. Before suffering season-ending knee injury, outside defensive back helped UI hold first 12 opponents to six goals.

7. Supo Sanni, football. After winning starting safety job, tore Achilles' tendon two weeks before season opener.

8. Kristin Sutherland, women's track & field. Hip injury sidelined two-time All-Region cross-country pick for entire track season.

9. Kersten Magrum, women's basketball. Projected starter played only three games before foot injury ended season.

10. Reid Roper, baseball. Freshman made strong bid to start at second base before suffering ACL tear during fall drills.

11. Paul Petrino, football. Tough guy didn't let knee surgery slow his play-calling.

Plays of the Year

1. Nate Bussey's interception return for a TD sparked first win at Penn State in football — and might have helped him get drafted.

2. Right fielder Davis Hendrickson's two-out diving catch in fifth inning likely saved two runs in 7-5 regional baseball win against Cal State-Fullerton.

3. Joseph Bertrand's dunk at Illini Madness got Huff Hall crowd going. So did his first-place dance moves and his knockout title.

4. Illinois scored two runs on a two-strike bunt single by Ashley Conrad, the difference in a 3-1 softball victory against Maryland.

5. Nathan Scheelhaase completed 9-yard touchdown run with high-flying leap into end zone against Northern Illinois.

6. Allison Buckley and Melissa Fernandez each nailed routines in balance beam during Illini's final rotation at regionals to clinch team berth in NCAA Championships.

7. Meyers Leonard grabbed inbounds pass and powered down a jaw-dropping dunk against Northwestern.

Coach of the Year

1. Justin Spring, men's gymnastics. Despite losing top all-around gymnast to injury, guided Illini to Big Ten title and third place in NCAA meet.

2. Dan Hartleb, baseball. Calmly stayed course, leading late-charging Illini to Big Ten regular season and tournament titles, first NCAA trip since 2000.

3. Mike Small, men's golf. Third straight Big Ten crown followed by NCAA regional runner-up and national match-play appearance.

4. Kevin Hambly, volleyball. His Big Ten runners-up reached NCAA Sweet 16 for third straight year.

5. Kim Landrus, women's gymnastics. Interim head coach produced program's second NCAA Championships trip, six All-Americans.

6. Mike Turk, men's track & field. UI wisely took interim label off his job title; he has once-wayward program pointed in right direction.

7. Ron Zook, football. From hot seat to raise.

Most improved

1. Stanley Azie, track & field. Former walk-on had breakthrough year, rising to No. 2 on all-time UI lists in 100, 200.

2. John Anderson, baseball. In first season as collegiate starter, former walk-on won team-high eight games for Big Ten co-champs.

3. Eric Terrazas, wrestling. After losing nine of final 10 matches year before, junior 149-pounder went 19-6, qualified for NCAA Championships

4. Lana Rukavina, women's basketball. Suddenly, out of nowhere, she became a legit three-point threat. Among players who attempted at least 40, she led team in percentage (40 percent).

5. Austin Phillips, men's gymnastics. Redshirt sophomore notched eight top-five finishes, including share of second in high bar during Big Ten team championships.

Headlines you might read in 2011-12

1. New AD: 'Tear down the Assembly Hall!'

2. Guenther, Tate win Two-Man Better Ball

3. Richmond quits 76ers

4. Augustine fouls out of Alumni Game

5. New Illinois Marathon finish line: Jimmy John's backyard

6. Cornhuskers get lost on way to Ann Arbor

7. Fire marshal needed at volleyball match

8. Game to kick off at 11 a.m.

9. BTN butchers "Maniscalco"

10. Hogan OKs nickname change to "State Farmers"

Headlines you won't read in 2011-12

1. New AD: 'Bring back the Chief!'

2. Illini Tattoo Shop opens on Quad

3. Tressel dots 'I'

4. East side of Memorial Stadium renovated

5. New Big Ten logo draws praise

6. Cornhuskers raise Big Ten's GPA

7. Champaign mayor re-ups N-G subscription

8. Weiner to host Midnight Madness

9. Zook: 'I feel bad for Ohio State'

10. Weber buys Chevy Blazer from Pearl Discount Auto

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sloth15 wrote on June 20, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Mike Davis had great senior leadership? Is that just because you couldn't think of anything else to say? That team had NO leadership at all. Leadership is typically measured by team discipline (lacking, see: Jereme) and ability to finish games and play well in tight games (lacking, see: leads given up in 2nd half.)

This goes double for McCamey. Both players frequently disappeared during games at and one point got benched from the starting lineup by Coach Weber.

If you had a category for 'Wasted Potential/Skill' they would be #1 and 2.

DaisyJ wrote on June 20, 2011 at 1:06 pm


AJF wrote on June 21, 2011 at 1:06 pm

How about adding another Best Moment..The Women's Basketball team hit the Worst Moment list with their loss to Michigan. How about the fact that they were able to turn the tables on Michigan to become the first 11th seed to advance to the Big 10 Tourney semifinals. A definite bright ending to their season!

Donna wrote on June 25, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Gotta agree with Ardith on that Women's Basketball moment. That game could also have made the "best crowd" list. A Penn State fan told me that a BTN person said that 100 people from Illinois sounded like 500. (Not that this would have had anything to do with me shouting like crazy).

Blimpy wrote on June 27, 2011 at 11:06 pm

Very good point. Hopefully those last games will carry onto next season.