Illinois volleyball is shaping up to be a power on the national scene.
Congratulations are due to the University of Illinois volleyball team, coach Kevin Hambly and his staff on the heels of the most successful season in the program's history.
Already one of the better programs in the tough Big Ten conference, with Sweet 16 appearances in the NCAA tournament in the previous three years, the Illini are making a bid to become one of the elite programs in the sport after making it to the championship game this year.
Although the team lost to champion UCLA last Saturday night, it was the first appearance of the Illini in the championship game and the third appearance in the Final Four overall, the teams in 1987 and '88 losing in the semifinals.
Overall, the team finished 32-5 and ranked second in the nation.
Volleyball is a fast-paced, exciting sport played by incredible athletes at the Big Ten level. It's not hard to see why fans pack venerable Huff Gym, where the Illini seldom lose, for games. And the Illini have done it with home-grown players, with 12 out of 17 squad members from Illinois and three others from the Midwest.
There are no givens in sports, but with 13 players returning, Hambly signed to a five-year contract and elite recruits receptive, Illinois volleyball could be a player on the national scene for years to come.