No. 22 Illinois (8-8, 2-4 Big Ten) at Michigan (14-6, 2-4), 7 p.m. Wednesday
Setting the scene
The Illini will try to halt a three-match losing streak, which ties the longest of Kevin Hambly’s UI head-coaching tenure. It is the second three-match Illini losing streak since Hambly succeeded Don Hardin in 2009. ... Illinois’ last three defeats all came against ranked opponents, dropping its record against Top 25 foes this season to 2-7. The last time the Illini finished a season with a losing record against ranked opponents was 2007, when the UI went 1-5 in such matches. ... Michigan has lost three straight, too, all on the road. The Wolverines are coming off a three-set loss Sunday to Wisconsin, which entered with a 1-4 Big Ten record. ... Illinois is 7-1 against the Wolverines since 2008. Three of those Illini victories, however, went five sets and only one was a 3-0 sweep. ... Outside hitter Jocelynn Birks registered the 37th 20-20 performance in UI history Saturday, racking up 20 kills and 23 digs in the five-set loss to Penn State. The redshirt freshman is the 17th individual to join the Illini’s 20-20 club. The all-time leaders in this feat are Mary Coleman (1995-98) and Tracey Marshall (1996-99), who each accomplished it six times. ... Birks has at least 20 kills in six of her last 11 matches and has led the Illini in kills in all but two of their 16 matches. ... Tonight’s match will be the third between former high school teammates Liz McMahon of Illinois and Lexi Dannemiller of Michigan. The current sophomores played for a Lakota West team that reached the Elite Eight of the Ohio state tournament in 2010.
The scoop on Michigan
Coach: Mark Rosen (14th year, 275-171)
Players to watch: Jr. MB Jennifer Cross; So. S Lexi Dannemiller; Jr. OH Lexi Erwin
About the Wolverines: Michigan didn’t get much love from Big Ten coaches in the league’s annual preseason poll. The Wolverines weren’t listed among the projected top six teams (which is all the conference makes public) and had no players among the 14 on the preseason All-Big Ten team. ... Michigan reached the NCAA tournament in all but two of Rosen’s first 13 seasons at the helm. In four of the last five years, his Wolverines have advanced at least as far as the Sweet 16, with an Elite Eight appearance in 2009. ... Michigan won 11 of its first 12 matches and was nationally ranked (at No. 22) as recently as the week of Sept. 10-16. The Wolverines are 1-3 against ranked opponents, the win coming against then-No. 25 Northern Iowa. ... Like McMahon, Dannemiller has been a fixture in the starting lineup since the start of her freshman season. She joined McMahon on the 2011 Big Ten All-Freshman Team and was a four-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week. ... Cross ranks second in the Big Ten and No. 33 nationally in blocks (1.36 per set). Erwin is eighth in the conference in points (4.35) and kills (3.79).