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Luhrsen, Birks earn Big Ten awards
Park Ridge, Ill. - The Fighting Illini's Annie Luhrsen and Jocelynn Birks took home two of the final Big Ten weekly awards of 2012. Luhrsen earns her first Big Ten Setter of the Week award and second career weekly award overall, while Birks garners her fourth Freshman of the Week award and fifth Big Ten weekly honor this season. In all, the Illini earned seven weekly awards this season, with setter Alexis Viliunas being named Freshman of the Week on Oct. 15.
Senior setter Annie Luhrsen was named Big Ten Setter of the Week after averaging 14.0 assists, 2.1 digs and 0.5 blocks in a pair of wins over Northwestern and Iowa. She posted a season-high 64 assists in the 3-2 victory at Northwestern, adding nine digs and three blocks against the Wildcats. She then followed with 48 assists in just 55 total attempts at Iowa, earning a .873 efficiency, while adding eight digs and a block. Luhrsen earns her first weekly honor of the season, and her second overall, after taking home Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors in the final week of the 2011 regular season, prior to the 2012 creation of the Setter of the Week category.
Redshirt freshman outside hitter Jocelynn Birks takes home her third Big Ten Freshman of the Week honor in the past four weeks, after averaging 5.9 kills, 2.8 blocks and 0.6 blocks in the pair of road victories this past week. She tallied a career-high 28 kills to go along with 13 digs and four blocks at Northwestern, registering her 11th 20-kill match and 13th double-double of the season. She followed that performance with 19 kills, nine digs and a block at Iowa, to finish the season ranked 10th all-time at Illinois with 510 total kills, becoming just the second Illini freshman in the 500-kill club.
Since the inception of the Big Ten Freshman of the Week honor in 2009, just two players have earned more than four rookie honors in the same season (Darcy Dorton, PSU, 2009; Deja McClendon, PSU, 2010), and Birks ties Jennifer Beltran's four in 2010 for the best in Illinois history. Penn State's Micha Hancock has earned six weekly honors this season, five of them setter honors, making her the only player ever to earn more than five weekly honors in a single season. Birks' five total honors ties Ohio State's Stacey Gordon (2004), Minnesota's Christine Tan (2008) and Purdue's Ariel Turner (2011) behind Hancock.
Purdue outside hitter Ariel Turner took home the final Big Ten Player of the Week award this afternoon, after averaging 6.0 kills on .373 hitting, 4.4 digs and 1.3 blocks per set in wins over Indiana (3-0) and Wisconsin (3-1). Turner opened the weekend with 18 kills, 14 digs and six blocks in a sweep of the Hoosiers, before tallying 24 kills, 17 digs and three blocks against the Badgers. The senior reels in her ninth career weekly honor, including her seventh Player of the Week nod.
Penn State middle blocker Katie Slay was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week, after registering 13 blocks in a pair of sweeps of No. 14 Ohio State and Michigan State. The junior tallied eight blocks against the Spartans and five vs. the Buckeyes, while hitting .464 with an average of 2.5 kills per set. The Raleigh, N.C., native earns her sixth Defensive Player of the Week award and her seventh overall weekly honor.
Birks shares her Freshman of the Week honor with Penn State outside Megan Courtney. The Dayton, Ohio, native registered 11 blocks over the weekend, tallying six against Michigan State and five, including two solo, against Ohio State. It is her first career honor, and the 12th overall for the Nittany Lions this season.