Chat with volleyball beat writer Jeff Huth ahead of this weekend Illini Classic, which begins Friday.
Welcome to our first on-line chat on Illini volleyball for the 2013 season. The No. 14 Illini (3-2) will play their first home matches this weekend in the 30th annual Illini Classic. With No. 2 Texas and No. 6 Washington in the field, as well as an Arizona State team that missed this week's Top 25 by two spots, this is definitely a high-caliber tournament.
We'll start the chat in a few minutes.
Hi Jeff,Thanks for resuming this. So far Maddie Mayers has been a real surprise, fans have to feel good about this. My questions:
A. Kevin said earlier he'd like to see Katie Stadick able to help out by Big Ten time. How is she coming along in practice sessions? Your assessment?
B. It appears that M. Strizak would be a strong red-shirt possibility, agree?
C. What will Colleen Ward be doing next?
D. Is Anna Dorn still having some leg problem?
It's still extremely early in Katie Stadick's college career, so it's probably best to wait and see how things develop. With fellow middle blocker Anna Dorn returning from knee surgery, Kevin Hambly is committed to making sure Dorn is physically ready and able to contribute through a long Big Ten schedule. When the Illini played two matches in one day to open the season, Hambly sat Dorn in the second match and used Stadick. That could happen again this Friday, when Illinois plays twice that day in the Illini Classic. If so, we'll learn more about how Stadick is adjusting to this level of volleyball.
Strizak is still in line to be redshirted. That could change, of course, if there are injuries in the outside hitter ranks or the starters there struggle, although that's hard to imagine with the likes of Birks and McMahon. Also, junior Morganne Criswell is available to play OH, and she has far more college training and experience than Strizak. Kevin Hambly saw how his decision to redshirt Birks as a true freshman paid off, and he expects the same for Strizak.
According to Hambly, former Illini All-American Colleen Ward is still working on signing with a pro team for the coming season.
Dorn has experienced some swelling in the knee, according to Hambly, which is why he is being careful with her at this stage. However, the last time I asked, pain is not an issue.
What is Laura DeBruler up to now?
Laura DeBruler is in her first season as an assistant coach at Western Illinois, on the staff of head coach April Hall. DeBruler was an volunteer assistant coach on Hambly's staff in 2012.
The Leathernecks have a 3-5 record entering a tournament this weekend at Iowa.
Jordyn Poulter has been selected to play for the U23 National Team. Do you know what that is? Won't she be playing with, and against, players who are much older than she is?
A rep with USA Volleyball says it will not release the roster until the team gathers to start training for the Under-23 World Championships, but Poulter confirmed in an e-mail to me this week that she was invited to join the U.S. U-23 National Team and accepted.
Given the fact that the setter is merely a high school junior, this is an eye-opening development. USA Volleyball wouldn't make this decision if it did not believe the Colorado native was up to it and could compete at a high level against much older and more experienced players. I'm sure they were impressed with how Poulter played as the starting setter for the U.S. U-18 National Team that won a silver medal in August at the U-18 World Championships in Thailand.
It's becoming more and more apparent that Hambly landed a special talent when Poulter committed to his program the summer before her sophomore school year.
The U-23 Worlds are in October in Tijuana, Mexico.
Can we expect to compete with the big dogs consistently when our outsides take so many of our swings...in a loss to LBSU, McMahon and Birks took a total of 95 swings...the rest of the squad (outside of the setter going over on two) took 28. Comparitively...in a loss to USD, San Diego had 5 girls take at least 27swings. I realize they are not taking all their swings from the left, but it seems like we are giving opposing defenses a huge advantage and in the process, are severely handicapping ourselves.
So much of where a team attacks from depends on the passing. If passes to the setter are on the money and give her multiple options on which teammate to go to, you don't need to rely so much on the outsides. When the passing is bad, the outsides become kind of the default option, because it's easy to just dump it over to the left side. It takes more timing and coordination to set to the middles, and that starts with the pass.
Every coach wants a balanced attack that keeps the opponent guessing where the ball will go next. Redshirt freshman middle blocker Maddie Mayers has proven she can be a major threat on the attack, and she has a particular talent on the slide play. When the Illini are utilizing her enough to get her double-digit swings, it's a good sign.
What you saw in the distribution numbers against Long Beach State and San Diego definitely wasn't the intent of Hambly or his players.
So, why does the promised 'new' volleyball floor in Huff look like the 'old' volleyball floor in Huff?
A new floor is coming next year, I'm told.
Thanks to you and the Sports Editor for having you do these chats. It's great to have someone so knowledgeable about the team to chat with. Thanks for the articles on McMahon and Mayers and the long, well-thought out interview with Coach Hambly.
In your article on this weekend's matches, you said that Washington runs a very specific system of play. Could you describe this in a little more detail and what strategy might be best to defend against it?
Also what are you watching for to see how well Vilunas is rising to her role as setter?
Kevin Hambly says Washington runs a 6-2 attack, so that means two setters are utilized. Whichever setter is in the back row always sets the ball, and the setter in the front row is a hitter. This means you always have three attackers in the front row. For that reason, there's more pressure on the opponent's blockers and perhaps they are spread thinner at the net. In Illinois' favor, however, is the fact that blocking is proving to be one of its real strengths
A 6-2 also means the person setting the ball always has to transition from defense, which can be tricky. In addtion, hitters are always being asked to work with and adjust to two different hitters throughout a match. Tricky, too.
My sense in talking to Hambly about Washington is that they are well-coached and the players typically have their system down cold. It's a case of, we do what we do, now try to stop us. Hambly says that's a way to describe his system, too.
Looks like we're out of questions so we'll wrap this up. As always thanks for your interest. I'm continually impressed with how knowledgeable Illini volleyball fans are and what astute points you raise in these chats.
Talk to you next week.