Tamas hopes national success draws recruits to Illini

Tamas hopes national success draws recruits to Illini

CHAMPAIGN — Jordyn Poulter committed to Illinois in July 2012. Sure the Aurora, Colo., native had some family ties to the state and was leaning the Illini’s direction since she was 12 years old, but the fact Illinois had played for a national championship just seven months prior didn’t necessarily hurt.

Ali Bastianelli and Beth Prince committed to Illinois less than a year after Poulter. Together, they ultimately gave then-coach Kevin Hambly the No. 1-ranked 2015 recruiting class in the country.

Current Illini coach Chris Tamas spent some time Monday recruiting with three conversations just four days removed from the program’s latest Final Four appearance. Will that success on that national stage breed more once again on the recruiting trail?

“The best part about (the Final Four) is it gives you more exposure and maybe opens up more recruits’ eyes to what the University of Illinois (can do) and that they could be a part of what we did this year,” Tamas said. “It will give us access to maybe better looks, but a better look needs to fit with what we’re doing here at Illinois. Not just talent for the sake of talent.”

Recruiting never really stops at the Division I level, but it’s especially true for volleyball. The 2018-19 recruiting calendar for Division I volleyball has just a single dead period the entire year (from Nov. 12-15). September, October, the rest of November, half of February and all of March, April, June and July are contact periods. The rest of the calendar is quiet periods, which only limits in-person contact away from campus.

“The recruiting piece always happens,” Tamas said. “We’re always looking how we could recruit more, recruit better.”

How Division I volleyball recruiting works, though, means the fruits of Illinois’ Final Four labors might not come until several years down the road. Poulter, after all, didn’t sign until three years after the Illini’s national runner-up finish in 2011.

“I think that’s kind of the oddity of our sport,” Tamas said, given recruiting starts when prospects are in seventh or eighth grade. “You won’t know the full impact maybe until another four years from now. ...  I think we proved we can battle with anyone, and I hope all those people see what it’s like when we have 4,000 in (Huff Hall). It’s tough to maybe see it in the short term, but in the long term it maybe helps us out a lot.”

Tamas’ immediate future involves closing out the 2018 season. He’s got expense reports to sign off on — and more coaching minutiae. The Illini players are wrapping up finals this week and will be off until mid-January. A full week of weight lifting awaits them when they return, and then the coaching staff will get one hour per day in the gym with the team until the end of the school year.

And recruiting. Always recruiting.

“You don’t know when that next person’s coming along,” Tamas said. “It’s our job to kind of figure that out and get those people involved. From this class forward, these are all my recruits. We were a little bit behind the eight-ball when I came in just because of who was kind out there — or wasn’t out there — at that given the time, but I thought we’ve done a tremendous job getting the best people we can here to represent the University of Illinois.”

The next waves

Illinois volleyball coach Chris Tamas has commits all the way out to the 2021 class. A breakdown of who will (eventually) join the Illini:

Class of 2019

Madison Chi 5-8 DS Irvine, Calif.

Kennedy Collins 6-3 OH Zion

Alyssa Eske 5-3 DS Milwaukee, Wis.

Ellie Holzman 6-2 OH/MB New Orleans

Rylee Hinton 6-2 MB Champaign

Kyla Swanson 6-4 MB Wahoo, Neb.

Class of 2020

Raina Terry 6-2 OH Marengo, Ohio

Maddie Whittington 6-4 MB Stillwater, Minn.

Class of 2021

Caroline Barnes 5-10 DS Naperville

Sarah Bingham 6-3 MB Shawnee Mission, Kan.

Brooke Mosher 5-11 S Waterloo, Wis.