PARK RIDGE — The Illinois volleyball team is projected to finish sixth in the Big Ten race in a preseason poll of conference coaches.
The poll was announced Friday.
Defending champion Penn State was selected as the league’s preseason favorite for the eighth time in nine years. The Nittany Lions were followed by Minnesota, Michigan, Nebraska, Michigan State and the Illini.
The league made public only the top six teams in the preseason balloting.
Two Illini were named to the 14-player Preseason All-Big Ten team. Junior outside hitter/right-side hitter Liz McMahon was chosen for the second year in a row. Redshirt sophomore outside hitter Jocelynn Birks was a first-time selection.
As a freshman, Birks led Illinois in kills (510) and service aces (27) while ranking second in digs (262). She became the 10th player in program history to reach 500 kills in a season, finishing her rookie year ninth all-time on the UI single-season kills list and second all-time among freshmen.
The 6-foot-6 McMahon was selected to the 2012 All-Big Ten team after leading the Illini in solo blocks (12) and ranking second on the team in kills (400) and points (470.5).
Three players were unanimous choices for the Preseason All-Big Ten team: Minnesota senior middle blocker Tori Dixon, Penn State senior right-side hitter Ariel Scott and Michigan State senior outside hitter Lauren Wicinski.
2013 PRESEASON POLL
1. Penn State
5. Michigan State
2013 PRESEASON ALL-BIG TEN VOLLEYBALL TEAM
Jocelynn Birks, Illinois, So., Outside Hitter
Liz McMahon (2), Illinois, Jr., Outside Hitter
Jennifer Cross, Michigan, Sr., Middle Blocker
Lexi Dannemiller, Michigan, Jr., Setter
Lexi Erwin, Michigan, Sr., Outside Hitter
LAUREN WICINSKI, Michigan State, Sr., Outside Hitter
TORI DIXON (3), Minnesota, Sr., Middle Blocker
Ashley Wittman (3), Minnesota, Sr., Outside Hitter
Stephanie Holthus (3), Northwestern, Sr., Outside Hitter
Megan Courtney, Penn State, So., Setter/Outside Hitter
Micha Hancock, Penn State, Jr., Setter
Deja McClendon (3), Penn State, Sr., Outside Hitter
ARIEL SCOTT (2), Penn State, Sr., Rightside Hitter
Katie Slay (3), Penn State, Sr., Middle Hitter
UNANIMOUS SELECTION IN CAPS
(2) Two-time selection
(3) Three-time selection