Champaign, Ill. - Freshman setter Alexis Viliunas was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week this afternoon, after leading the Illini to a 3-2 victory over No. 25 Michigan State in her first career appearance for Orange and Blue. She is the second Illinois player to earn Big Ten praise this season, after redshirt freshman Jocelynn Birks was named Player and Freshman of the Week on Sept. 17 for her play in the Time Warner Cable Texas Invitational. Viliunas is the first Illinois freshman ever to earn a weekly honor after her first career appearance.
The La Grange, Ill., nativeburst onto the scene on Saturday night, earning a double-double with 49 assists and 14 digs, while going a perfect 3-for-3 in attacks and stuffing a key block in the fifth set. Her calm, easy-going mentality helped the team pull together after falling behind, 0-2, to win the final three sets and tab the Illini's first Big Ten victory in 15 days.
"Lex played the match this weekend with tremendous poise," said Head Coach Kevin Hambly. "She seemed unfazed by the environment and playing in her first match."
The Lyons Township High School grad had a familiar face to set to in the front row in Jocelynn Birks, having teamed up to lead the Lions to the 2010 Illinois High School State Championship. Viliunas set up Birks for a team-high 19 kills, and helped the Illini out-hit the Spartans .295 to .228.
In addition to Viliunas, the Big Ten honored three other players in this week's weekly awards. Michigan middle blocker Jennifer Cross was named Player of the Week, after leading the Wolverines to a pair of 3-0 victories while hitting .340 with an average of 3.7 kills, 1.5 digs and 1.7 blocks per set.
Purdue outside hitter ArielTurner garnered Defensive Player of the Week honors for her play against No. 1 Penn State and No. 19 Ohio State. The senior, who earns her ninth career Big Tenweekly award, averaged 3.3 digs and 1.0 blocks per set, including a double-double against Ohio State with 16 kills, 12 digs and five blocks in the 3-1 victory. She then led the team with 11 digs at the top-ranked Nittany Lions.
Lauren Cook rounded out this week's awards, earning Big Ten Setter of the Week for the second-straight week. The Nebraska senior averaged 11.6 assists and 2.3 digs per set in wins over No. 10 Minnesota (3-1) and Wisconsin (3-0). She hit .361 on the week and had a double-double against the Gophers with 44 assists and 11 digs.
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