Jan. 25 volleyball/hoops chat

Jan. 25 volleyball/hoops chat

Friday, January 25, 2013 - 11:00am

Jeff Huth covers women's baskeball and volleyball for HQ. Will Matt Bollant's team play in the postseason? When will Kevin Hambly's team return to the NCAAs? Fire away on any topic - at any time - and Huth will respond during his 11 a.m. Friday give-and-take.

Jeff Huth wrote on January 25, 2013 at 10:01 am
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Welcome to our weekly chat. Looks like we have a number of questions already, which is great. We'll get started in a few minutes.

-- Jeff Huth

naplesIllini71 wrote on January 25, 2013 at 10:01 am

I have a three-part question for you. And thanks a whole bunch for your chats.

A. What is Laura De Bruler planning to do next?

B. Has the team been working out at this time? And what kind dynamic might emerge from this group, given last year's uneven play?

C. Is Katie Stadter still bent on getting "country strong" in her grandfather's farm, and not show up untill fall? 



Jeff Huth wrote on January 25, 2013 at 11:01 am
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A: Laura DeBruler served last season on the UI coaching staff as a volunteer assistant. Now she is job-hunting for a full-time position in coaching, preferably at the major college level. We'll get the word out if and when she lands a job.

B. The team began practicing on Jan. 14, the first day of the spring semester. With the exception of middle blocker Erin Johnson and setter Annie Luhrsen (who lost and then regained her starting spot), all of the players in the primary rotation will return for next season. You hit on one of the goals: becoming more consistent in their on-court execution. The 2012 Illini were a pretty young group. You would expect with that experience under their belts, the next team should make strides -- possibly major ones given talents like Liz McMahon, Jocelynn Birks and Anna Dorn. This is a key training period, however, because freshman Alexis Viliunas is taking the full-time reins at the all-important setter position. That transition begins now, and it's a key one when you project to the 2013 season.

C. I had to laugh at this question because when I wrote about Katie Stadick's commitment to the UI, the topic of working on her grandfather's farm was part of that story. Not exactly your typical background for a recruit, but this Watertown (Wis.) High School senior middle blocker is proud to be a farmgirl. She'll be arrving later this year with the rest of the incoming freshmen, so that gives her time to get "country stronger" through farm work.


BRucks wrote on January 25, 2013 at 11:01 am

Did Magrum whack her head again in practice, or is the current situation the result of earlier injuries? 


Has Dorn had her knee surgery?  Was it the same knee that she injured her freshman year?

Jeff Huth wrote on January 25, 2013 at 11:01 am
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Magrum has had at least three concussions during her Illini career, and the concussions symptoms she has experienced again recently might be yet another. Or it could be a reaction to previous concussions. I was told it was nothing from practice, so more likely from a game before Magrum was shut down begining with the first meeting with Northwestern on Jan. 10.

Matt Bollant inititally was not optimistic about a quick return by Magrum, and she has missed four games now. But when I asked about it early this week, the UI coach said Magrum was making progress and he sounded more optimistic. I hope to reach him later today to get a further update.

Dorn did have a minor surgerical procedure on her knee, which she injured in the second match of her freshman season in 2010. The surgery took place shortly after the end of the season and Kevin Hambly called it "routine." Once Illinois was eliminated from NCAA tournament contention, Hambly decided to withhold Dorn from the final few matches because of her knee rather than risk further strain and possible damage..

Mike D wrote on January 25, 2013 at 11:01 am

I appreciate that you include volleyball in the chats this time of year. 

At the signing day press conference, Hambly mentioned the class could be as many as five players.  Have you found out who the potential fifth player is?  (assuming the fourth is Danielle Davis)

What is that status of the development of the freshman middles.  Can’t recall reading an updates since the intrasquad game.   What has Hambly said about their progress after a fall of practice.

What kind(s) of players is Hambly recruiting for 2014?  I understand that Hambly cannot comment on specific players but I am interested in what position is he recruiting.  The only graduate will be Jennifer Beltran.  Is he recruiting another backrow player?  Illinois seems to be loaded with outsides and in good shape for middles.   Seems to be a need for a setter or backrow player unless Danielle Davis is another Rachel Feldman.

Has the new substitute rule changed how Hambly recruits?   Will there be more emphasis on back row players?

How does a player work on her passing in the off season?  Seems to be a more difficult skill to work on than shooting in basketball.

Has Illinois announced its spring schedule yet?  Will you post it online when it is available?  Thanks.

Jeff Huth wrote on January 25, 2013 at 11:01 am
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Mike D:

Still monitoring for commitments but nothing yet. Danielle Davis is a preferred walk-on, so she would not count among the scholarship recruits.

Regarding the young middle blockers, my sense is that Hambly thinks very highly of incoming freshman Katie Stadick of Watertown, Wis. Current freshman Maddie Mayers was redshirted last season, and my sense is that she's working on the transition to the college game. This spring will be important for her in that regard. The Illini also have Kathryn Polkoff among its middle blockers. She was a preferred walkon last season as a freshman. and did not play in any matches.

Depending on how many scholarships the UI has available for 2014, I think a hitter and a middle blocker would be priorities. Julia Conard really came on as a defensive specialist late last season, and she currently projects as a strong candidate to succeed Beltran.

The rules change you refer to is the increase in the number of subsitutions per set from 12 to 15. The impetutus for the change was to involve more players in the matches, with coaches able to more freely subsitute in the back row with defensive specialists. The UI has always been able to attract high quality walk-ons at the DS spot, and Hambly expects that to continue, so this doesn't really impact recruiting. A libero will still be part of the scholarship mix, but walk-ons are likely to continue to fill the Illini's defensive specialist position.

There are drills you can do with passing, but it's hard to simulate what a passer faces in a match unless you are scrimmaging. So, I'd agree with your thought that it's quite a bit different than practicing shooting a basketball.

I just checked the Illini volleyball web site, and their spring schedule was not posted.

MattK61 wrote on January 25, 2013 at 11:01 am

It's been about 12 weeks since we heard that backup center Kierra Morris was expected back in 12 weeks. Any update on her status? We could use a 6'4" player for a few minutes every now and then against all these bigger teams. But can she contribute at this point considering how much time she's missed, and would she fit with this athletic lineup?

Jeff Huth wrote on January 25, 2013 at 11:01 am
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Nothing firm on when or if Morris might return, but she is participating in practice at this point and making progress in terms of being allowed to do more things.

In late October, UI announced that the sophomore center would be out 12 weeks with the broken ankle, so that timeline is just about up. However, it was an estimated timeline. The healing of the ankle is just one factor in Morris' possible return. Her fitness level needs to be game-worthy. And she needs to have Matt Bollant's confidence that she's ready to contribute on the court.

There have been more than a few games in which Illinois could have used a player of Morris' height (6-foot-4) off the bench.


Jeff Huth wrote on January 25, 2013 at 12:01 pm
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Looks like we've run out of questions so we'll wrap this up. Thanks for participating and talk to you next week.

-- Jeff Huth