Illinois (13-16, 7-12 Big Ten) at Iowa (10-22, 2-17), 7 p.m. today
Setting the scene: It’s been a tough season for Illinois, which in one year has fallen from NCAA tournament runner-up to out of the postseason. With a victory in tonight’s finale, however, the Illini can conclude their year with a three-match winning streak, matching their longest in 2012. Modest though it is, this late surge offers an encouraging springboard into what figures to be an important training session in the spring. Among the tasks are preparing freshman setter Alexis Viliunas for full-time starting duty in 2013 and determining whether 6-foot-6 sophomore Liz McMahon should remain at outside hitter next season after being moved from right-side hitter Nov. 3. ... This is the only meeting of the season between Illinois and Iowa. The Illini have won their last 12 matches against the Hawkeyes, a streak that dates back to November 2005. Illinois leads the all-time series 54-13. ... Illini middle blocker Anna Dorn is expected to miss her third straight match tonight due to an injury. The UI declined to reveal the nature of the injury. Redshirt junior Jessica Jendryk has taken Dorn’s place in the lineup. In her two matches as a starter, the 6-1 Jendryk has seven kills and is hitting .545 in 11 swings. She also has contributed three block assists. ... Illini libero Jennifer Beltran enters the finale with 485 digs, seventh on the school single-season list. The junior needs four more to move past Ashley Edinger into sixth place. Beltran already holds the Nos. 1 and 2 spots on the UI single-season chart. ... Following her season-high 64 assists, Illini setter Annie Luhrsen stands fourth on the UI single-season list with 1,667. Barb Winsett is No. 3 with 1,691 in 1989. ... Jocelynn Birks’ 11 20-kill matches are the second most by an Illini freshman in a single season. Laura DeBruler, a volunteer assistant on the UI coaching staff, had 15 20-kill matches as a freshman in 2007.
The scoop on Iowa
Coach: Sharon Dingman (fifth year, 55-103)
Players to watch: So MB Alessandra Dietz, So. OH Alex Lovell, Jr. L Bethany Yeager
About the Hawkeyes: Iowa enters in the throes of a 13-match losing streak. The Hawkeyes haven’t won since Oct. 6, when they stunned then-No. 12 Purdue in a three-set sweep on the road. During its tailspin, Iowa is struggling just to win a set. The Hawkeyes have lost their last 11 matches 3-0. ... Yeager ranks third in the Big Ten in digs with 4.47 per set. She is one of three conference players with at least 500 digs this season. ... Iowa ranks last in the 12-team Big Ten in five of the seven primary statistical categories and 10th in another.