Jeff Huth, who covers women's basketball and college volleyball for HQ, chats at 11 a.m. Fridays. Submit questions about Matt Bollant's and Kevin Hambly's programs any time.
Hi and welcome to our weekly chat on Illini women's basketball and volleyball. We'll get started in a few minutes.
Do you have any information on the summer European trip for the volleyball team? When? Where? Who? Can the incoming freshmen go?
I don't have exact dates for the trip, but I do know that it is scheduled for May after school lets out. Kevin Hambly has told me the team will travel to Italy and Slovenia.
Regarding incoming freshmen, NCAA rules permit such athletes to make these kinds of trips as long as they are enrolled in summer school. That is pretty much standard operating procedure with the UI volleyball program, so I would expect those players to make the trip unless there are some extenuating circumstances that prevent an individual from doing so.
Big win against Iowa! Talk about how important coaching was in the victory. I thought Bollant's time out right after we broke the 60-60 tie was huge in making the adjustments to finish it off.
Agreed. Big win. With five wins in the Illini's last seven games, I think it's time to rethink what this team is capable of in terms of where they might finish in the Big Ten standings and whether they might get into the NCAA tournament. Entering the season, I don't think anyone outside the program -- and maybe inside -- was expecting an NCAA bid, but that certainly isn't out of the question.
The one change that Matt Bollant talked about after the game was with the team's defense down the stretch. In the Illini's Buzz defense, which is an aggressive trapping zone, the guards were pulled back so they didn't have as much area to cover. He thought that was an effective move to contend with Iowa's first pass in initiating its half-court offense. At the same time, Bollant thought his defenders still kept their aggressiveness. It showed in that 14-0 Illini run down the stretch. Iowa simply couldn't score. Of course, it was significant that two of the Hawkeyes best players -- and scorers -- fouled out of the game during this stretch. Still, it was an impressive display of defense by an Illini team that continues to show it's grasping the concepts of a new staff's defense more and more with each game.
A couple of questions for you.
1. How is the schedule for next year shaping up?
2. Any news about Colleen Ward in Europe?
3. Any idea what we might expect from Morganne Criswell?
How's the weather down in Florida? Be glad you are there and not here. Bitterly cold these past few days.
1. The UI typically releases the upcoming season's volleyball schedule in May, or June at the latest. Just depends on when all the Is are dotted and the Ts are crossed. We've always done a story on the schedule's release -- with comments from the coach -- so expect the same coverage when the 2013 lineup is made public.
2. To the best of my knowledge, Ward is playing for a pro team called Azzurra Volley in San Casciano, Italy. I did a Web search hoping to find any details on how she's fairing. Several were in Italian. We'll ask Kevin Hambly if he knows anything the next time we talk.
3. Criswell might have her work cut out for her in breaking into the rotation next season, but she certainly has the talent to do so. She started out last season as a lineup regular but eventually was replaced by Ali Stark when Stark returned from an injury. My sense is that Criswell is still working on some of the all-around skills -- passing in particular -- that she needs to break into the rotation full-time. When it comes to hitting, however, Criswell has high-impact skills. As last season progressed, there were times when the Illini attack was sagging and Hambly put Criswell into the match in hopes she would provide a boost. She came through several times that I remember. With hitters like Jocelynn Birks, Liz McMahon, Stark and promising incoming freshman Michelle Strizak, that segment of the roster is deep and talented. Perhaps Criswell's niche is to be that hitter who provides a lift off the bench. But that's not saying she can't -- or won't -- be more. Players progress at different timetables in their college careers. If Criswell emerges this fall as one of the team's best players, Hambly will have her on the court. As I've written several times, it's the players, really, who determine any team's lineup by how they practice and play.
Just got some more information on the volleyball team's European trip. Former Illini middle blocker Johannah Bangert, the UI's director of volleyball operations, returned my call and indicated that the team would leave on May 24 and return on June 2.
She also indicated that the Illini's incoming freshmen would not be making the trip but that every returning player would be doing so. She did not know why the freshmen weren't going, and Kevin Hambly is currently out of state and unavailable to ask about that.
I think my reading of the NCAA rule on incoming freshmen and these trips is accurate, but I'll ask Hambly the next time I talk to him.
Looks like we've run out of questions so we'll wrap this up. As always, we appreciate your interest.
Talk to you next week.