Illini Insider

Illini Insider

ONE TO WATCH

   Volleyball vs. Penn State, 7 p.m. Saturday

   It''s big news when the No. 1-ranked and undefeated Nittany Lions drop even one game. Which means Penn State''s been making news lately. After winning 12 of their first 15 matches by 3-0 scores, the Nittany Lions have been pushed to four or more games in three of their last five. Even ninth-place Northwestern took Penn State to five games on Oct. 19. "They''re not incapable of faltering," said UI coach Don Hardin. Just as Illinois'' primary focus this week will be on defeating Indiana on Friday, Penn State will be directing most of its preparation to a showdown the same night with second-place and No. 7 Wisconsin.

ILLINI OF THE WEEK

   Anna Christiansen, Swimming

   The freshman from West Newbury, Mass., made a cannonball-like splash in her first collegiate competition last Saturday. Christiansen won the 200-yard butterfly, 200 breaststroke and 400 individual medley as Illinois swept host Penn State and Villanova in a double dual meet. Her times in the butterfly (2:04.65) and breaststroke (2:20.50) were just 1.12 seconds and 1.02 seconds, respectively, off the school records.

WORLD SERIES TIES

   Members of the 1992 UI baseball team  as well as current Illini assistant coach Todd Murphy  saw a couple of familiar faces in this year''s World Series.

   Two players for the world champion Florida Marlins squared off against the Illini in the spring of ''92. Catcher Charles Johnson went 3 for 6 as the UI split two games with Miami. Second baseman Craig Counsell was 1 for 7 with a homer and five runs batted in as his Notre Dame team lost twice to Illinois.

   "The thing I noticed about Charles Johnson," UI coach Itch Jones said after the Series, "is he''s really improved as a catcher and a thrower. I did not think he threw that well when he was younger."

   Murphy, who graduated from Butler in ''91, played regularly against Counsell because their schools were in the same conference.

   "He wasn''t flashy, but I''ll tell you what, he could play," recalled Murphy. "He was just a determined guy who worked his tail off. He just gets the job done."

MEET THE ILLINI

   NAME: Jeff Laski

   Sport: Tennis

   Year: Sophomore

   HOMETOWN: Lisle

   HIGH SCHOOL: Naperville North

   MAJOR: Liberal Arts and Sciences

   The former high school state doubles champion continues to excel in doubles at the collegiate level. As a freshman, Laski teamed with Gavin Sontag at No. 3 doubles to go 15-3 in dual meets and 21-8 overall. Of the 11 Big Ten doubles matches Laski was involved in, he and his partner lost just once. This season, Laski has teamed with junior transfer David Treadwell to go 7-1. Laski has been a solid contributor at singles, too, going 23-8 last season while competing mostly at No. 6. No surprise there  as a prep sophomore, Laski went 42-0.

RECORD BEITZ THE DUST

   UI sophomore setter Melissa Beitz no longer holds the state high school record for career assists. The Stewardson-Strasburg graduate was supplanted on Oct. 14 by Jenny Rohren of Normal University High.

   From 1992-95, Beitz recorded 2,354 career assists. Rohren had 2,535 going into the Pioneers'' regional tournament debut Thursday night at Downs against Bloomington Central Catholic.

   The 5-foot-7 Rohren has orally committed to Valparaiso.

MAKING THE GRADE

   Six UI athletes have been nominated for selection to the 1997 CoSIDA Academic All-America District V team. The group includes four football players: center Tom Schau, defensive backs Ivan Benson and Mike Gusich, and tight end Matt Cushing. Also nominated were two volleyball players: setter Melissa Beitz and outside hitter Laura Haselhorst. The honor team is selected by sports information directors in the district. Nominees must have a minimum 3.2 grade point average (on a 4.0 scale) and be a starter or key reserve.

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