October 28 Illinois Volleyball Chat

Friday, October 28, 2011 - 11:00am

Why is BTN showing Nebraska-Penn State when it passed on Illinois-Penn State? Will Illinois ever get back to No. 1? Talk to N-G volleyball beat writer Jeff Huth

Jeff Huth (moderator) — 10:59 AM on Fri, 10/28/2011

We'll start the chat in a few minutes. The No. 3 Illini are back home this weekend for matches tonight against Wisconsin and on Saturday night against No. 15 Minnesota, which is being coached on an interim basis by former UI All-American Laura Bush.

Jeff Huth

Dan Bloeme — 11:00 AM on Fri, 10/28/2011

Morning Jeff,

I have followed women's volleyball all season and have seen or listened to many of their games. Of course I was tuned in to the broadcast of the game with Nebraska online at btn2go.com last Saturday. I expected a similar match to the one at Penn State. The 1st set was great and Illini rose to challenge and won it. In 2nd set Nebraska took control and gained a large lead midpoint and won it handily. I expected Illini to come charging back after halftime but the 3rd set was same story as 2nd set but even more pronounced. Illini were being out-hustled and outfought, that much was evident. Nebraska dug out the ball repeatedly while Illini back line looked flatfooted and had feeble digs. The match was turning and Illini did not respond. By the 4th set Illini women had obviously already given up and Nebraska seemingly only had to get ball over the net to score as Illini were discombobulated, out of sync and only going trough the motions. I was very disappointed with the Illini players giving up and not rising up and mounting a fierce comeback to play at the level the Nebraska players were. Nebraska girls just wanted the match more, gave the extra effort and played all out to win while Illinois looked listless after that 1st set. That is not the way a championship team responds. I'm convinced that if Illinois played the way they did at Penn State they would have been in their match against Nebraska. Do you think it is actually good for Illinois to have suffered such an embarrassing loss, had their unbeaten streak broken and lost their #1 ranking? Maybe they will play looser and better now as an underdog or do they just not have the killer instinct say of Penn State's championship teams of past years?

Jeff Huth (moderator) — 11:11 AM on Fri, 10/28/2011


I wasn't necessarily surprised that Illinois lost. Nebraska is one of the best teams in the country with a historic tradition in the sport. It also was playing on its home court in what appeared to be a very tough environment. It was clear that both the Cornhuskers players and their fans were fired up about the opportunity to play the No. 1 team in the country.
What was eye-opening -- and no doubt disappointing from the Illini's standpoint -- was how decisively Nebraska outplayed Illinois after the first set. The fourth set, in particular, was a rout that you never would have expected given how the Illini had been playing this season.
I'm guessing this match was a shock to the system to the entire Illini team -- coaches and players. The question now is, how do they react to that? Has it shaken their belief that Illinois really is a national top-tier team? Or do they take it as a challenge and become determined to prove that it was a one-night fluke?
I'm sure we'll find out during the second half of the Big Ten race, which begins tonight, and on into the NCAA tournament.


PeterE — 11:24 AM on Fri, 10/28/2011

To say Nebraska routed Illinois in that 4th set is an understatement. Illinois looked like they did not want to be on that court any minute longer and almost everything Nebraska hit over wasn't returned. Very embarrassing and disheartening for players, coaches and fans. I don't know that this team after giving up like that can ever get their confidence back and win the really tough games where an able opponent has the "eye of the tiger" and Illinois thinks it just has to show up.

Is the toughest game left on the schedule against Penn State at home? Right now I think Penn State stands a good chance to win that game.

Jeff Huth (moderator) — 11:34 AM on Fri, 10/28/2011


I'm sure a lot of Illini fans share your frustration. It's one thing to lose to a team the caliber of Nebraska on its home court. It's another to go down to defeat in the meek manner that unfolded.

It's not something that would have been expected, given how Illinois responded when it traveled to Penn State on Oct. 8 -- a tough environment against the four-time defending NCAA champions. The Illini rose up that night and had to battle back from a 2-1 deficit in sets to pull out that victory.

You figured that response would have bolstered Illinois' confidence in a similar situation at Nebraska. Yet, that was a very different Illini team than the one in State College, Pa.

To answer your question, I do think Penn State is the toughest remaining match on Illinois' schedule. In my opinion, it's one of three matches left that will tell us a lot about how the Illini respond after that loss at Nebraska. The others are Saturday night's match against No. 15 Minnesota and next Wednesday's trip to No. 11 Purdue.


Urbana_Fan — 11:36 AM on Fri, 10/28/2011

It is amazing how people can be so negative. Yes the team lost to a very good Nebraska team and may have had an off night, but that doesn't mean the players did not give their best. All the negative comments on here about the team not having the "killer instinct" of a top program and may not regain their confidence do not help the program in any way. I do hope people would just rather give encouragement and just enjoy the season as it unfolds. We still have the 3rd ranked team in the country so focus on the positive.

Jeff Huth (moderator) — 11:46 AM on Fri, 10/28/2011


You make some good points about keeping things in perspective. It was just one match. And Kevin Hambly has said all along that the team's focus is -- and always will be -- on being the best team it can be by the start of the NCAA tournament.

Regarding fan reaction to Saturday's loss, I think what often happens when a team gets off to such a spectacular start as Illinois did this season, expectations go through the roof. The trip to Nebraska was an opportunity to prove, in a showdown situation, that the Illini really were the No. 1 team in the country.

When they not only lost, but were not nearly as competitive with Nebraska as their previous play would have led fans to expect, the letdown among fans can be pretty severe.

I think that's what you see reflected in some of the previous comments from fans in this chat.

Certainly, there's no reason to think the Illini still can't continue to have a special season.


Salt Life — 11:46 AM on Fri, 10/28/2011

Hi Jeff,

This is in response to UrbanaFan trying to squelch open sports discussion and free speech. You have a right to feel the Illini women just had an off night and played their best. Dan and Peter also have a right to express what to them are valid and realistic viewpoints for them. I personally do not believe the Illini played their best or to the best of their ability the last 2-3 sets at Nebraska. I have seen them play much better, including against Penn State. The team may need a wakeup call like this and reminder they need to bring it every night.

Jeff Huth (moderator) — 11:56 AM on Fri, 10/28/2011

Salt Life

Hey, you're preaching to the choir on free speech. It's fundamental to the newspaper profession.

That's why the N-G has these chats -- to give fans a chance to voice their opinions. To rant, if they wish. To come to the impassioned defense of their favorite team or player.

Regarding your last point, there certainly can be a positive out of a negative. Maybe, as you suggest, the Nebraska loss becomes a wake-up call. And Kevin Hambly, during the week before the trip to Lincoln, made the point that he welcomed the opportunity to play a team the caliber of Nebraska because it would reveal things about his team that would be helpful the rest of the season. Reveal deficiencies that his team would need to address.


Dan Bloeme — 12:03 PM on Fri, 10/28/2011


While it was disheartening to see the players give up in Lincoln, part of the loss is because Illinois was outcoached and outprepared. Nebraska often knew where Illini hitters would be and had blockers ready. Illinoi' plays weren't as effective consequently. Nebraska's plays on the other hand showed Illini unprepared to effective;y respond. Coach Cook of Nebraska just did a great job getting his team ready.

Jeff Huth (moderator) — 12:10 PM on Fri, 10/28/2011


There's no doubt that the caliber of coaching in the Big Ten is as good as any conference in the nation. And it only got better when Nebraska -- and John Cook -- were added to the mix. He's a coach, I have no doubt, with a Hall of Fame induction in his future.

After the Illini played Penn State, Kevin Hambly was praised for the adjustments he made, particularly in regard to blocking, that had an impact on his team's comeback. And this was against a coach, Russ Rose, who has an unmatched record of success.

I won't disagree that Cook had Nebraska highly prepared. But I'm not sure that in-match coaching had a major impact on the outcome. Nebraska played better on that night, and the match got away from Illinois. Hambly's coaching task now is to get his team to regroup, correct what went wrong, and move forward.


Jeff Huth (moderator) — 12:14 PM on Fri, 10/28/2011

We'll end the chat now.

That's two weeks in a row we've had some impassioned exchanges. Last week about the Big Ten Network not showing the UI-Nebraska match live and now as the loss to the Cornhuskers is digested and dissected.

That's what this chat is here for, and we hope you'll continue to participate and voice your opinions.

Talk to you next Friday.