Illinois State improved to 7-0 in MVC action and remains as the league's sole unbeaten team after two impressive victories last weekend. The Redbirds took down Wichita State and Missouri State in the same weekend for the first time since 2007.
The last time Illinois State started conference play 7-0 was during the 1998 season. That year, Redbirds went 16-2 in conference play and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. The previous season was also the last time Illinois State claimed a conference championship, as the Redbirds went 24-9 in 1997, which included a 17-1 record against Valley opponents.
Another rare feat was accomplished last weekend when Southern Illinois downed UNI for the first time since 1993, ending a 40-match losing streak against the Panthers.
Bradley's victory over Loyola on Saturday was the Braves 10th victory of the season, surpassing the team’s overall win total from 2012 and was also the fourth league win for the Braves after winning just three league matches all of last fall. With 11 matches remaining, Bradley needs just two MVC victories and three wins overall for the highest conference and overall win totals since posting a 16-17 overall record and 9-9 MVC mark in 2005. The Braves have a winning record (10-6) this late in the season for the first time since opening the 2005 season 11-6.
NCAA RPI Report
The second NCAA RPI report for the 2013 season has been released and the Valley has four teams in the top-80. Wichita State leads the league at No. 49, while Illinois State (No. 57), Missouri State (No. 73) and UNI (No. 80) are also among the nation's top-80.
Much is on the line in league action as we head into the halfway point of Valley play. Bradley and Loyola travel to Missouri State and Wichita State, pitting four of the top-six teams against each other.
Drake and UNI will welcome Illinois State and Indiana State, where the Redbirds will put their perfect league season on the line against the Panthers on Friday night. Illinois State has not beaten UNI since the 2007 season, and have not beaten the Panthers in Cedar Falls since 2005.
Evansville will also host travel partner Southern Illinois on Friday night.
This week's Missouri Valley Conference Players of the Week are Illinois State's Kaitlyn Early and Southern Illinois' Alex Rivera and Hannah Kaminsky.
MISSOURI VALLEY CONFERENCE PLAYER OF THE WEEK:
Kaitlin Early, Jr., S, Illinois State
Early was exceptional for the Redbirds on the weekend, as the junior setter collected a total 92 assists, 11 kills, 22 digs and three block assists to lead the Redbirds in two crucial Missouri Valley Conference victories. Early averaged 11.5 assists per set while hitting .346 on offense. Defensively, she averaged 2.75 digs per set, while helping the Redbird back row maintain its strong presence. Against Missouri State, Early picked up seven kills while hitting .375, adding 46 assists, 15 digs and two block assists. Her command of the offense has helped Illinois State in maintaining a perfect 7-0 conference record.
Other Notable Performances: Amy Angelos (BU); Rachel TenHoor (UE); Loni Mackinson (INS); Kathleen Vogel (LU); Olivia Brand (MSU); Macy Ubben (UNI); Taylor Pippen (SIU); Ashley Andrade (WSU).
MISSOURI VALLEY CONFERENCE DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK:
Alex Rivera, Jr., DS, Southern Illinois
Rivera defended SIU’s backcourt this weekend helping Southern to a 2-0 finish. The junior recorded 38 digs to average 5.43 per set. On Saturday, Rivera tallied a team-high 23 digs in four sets to help the Salukis top UNI, 3-1, for the first time since 1993.
Other Notable Performances: Lauren Zerante (BU); Emily Orrick (ILS); Cassandra Willis (INS); Stephanie Kinane (LU); Kinsey Caldwell (UNI); Ashley Andrade (WSU).
MISSOURI VALLEY CONFERENCE FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK:
Hannah Kaminsky, Fr., S, Southern Illinois
Kaminsky was clutch for Southern Illinois as the Salukis finished the weekend 2-0. The freshman setter recorded eight kills, 78 assists, three service aces, 14 digs and four block assists during seven sets of play. Kaminsky tallied six kills on nine attempts during the Salukis sweep of Drake. She also added 32 assists, eight digs and three block assists. On Saturday, the Woodridge, Ill. native dished out 46 assists to help guide the Salukis to a 3-1 win over UNI.
Other Notable Performances: Rachel Jones (BU); Katie Allen (DU); Bree Spangler (INS); Simone House (MSU); Amie Held (UNI); Dani Mostrom (WSU).