Hambly seeks assistant; Illini, Badgers tie

Hambly seeks assistant; Illini, Badgers tie

CHAMPAIGN — Kevin Hambly added to his coaching staff twice already this February, hiring former Dartmouth head coach Erin Lindsey as an assistant and luring Jenni Bolduc away from Ball State as Illinois’ director of operations. Hambly is active again in the assistant coach market after the recent resignation of Owen Monroy.

Monroy spent the 2015 season at Illinois as the replacement for Scott Leserman, who also spent just one season with the Illini in 2014. Former assistant Hillary Haen Tennant and former director of operations Johannah Bangert, who both played for Hambly, stepped away for personal reasons following the 2015 season.

Illinois’ next assistant hire will mark the 10th total for Hambly, who will start his eighth season as head coach this fall. Kent Miller (Saint Louis women), David Kniffin (UC-Irvine men) and Dan Conners (UC-Davis women) all moved on to head coaching jobs. Hambly said there’s no timetable for the hire, with the spring season now complete.

“We could potentially have it done here pretty soon, but it may take us a while,” Hambly said. “We’ve had some great candidates. I’m excited for the possibility of it. I think we did a nice job with the people we have coming in with Erin and Jenni. Erin had a ton of experience and that’s been a really big change, and hopefully we get someone similar in Owen’s position.”

Stadick, Crittenden shine in scrimmage. The plan all along for Illinois’ final spring scrimmage against Wisconsin on Saturday at Huff Hall was to play it ear in terms of how many sets and how many points it would take to win one of those sets.

That became especially true after the first set — scheduled for 15 points — ended in a 33-31 win for the Badgers. Five more sets finished the day, with Illinois winning the middle three in a 31-33, 15-10, 15-10, 15-10, 23-25, 19-25 tie with Wisconsin.

“Isn’t that how it goes with us?” Hambly said. “Either it’s deuce sets or somebody runs away with it. I just really enjoy playing volleyball against a good team. We tried some stuff, and they tried some stuff.

"You don’t get that very often. It was nice to see us be dominant at times and get dominated at times. I think it’s good for all of us to see what our weaknesses are, and we’ll all be better for it.”

The connection between setter Jordyn Poulter and middle blocker Katie Stadick and consistent swings on the right side from Naya Crittenden stood out most for the Illini in their final spring scrimmage.

“I thought Katie’s best swing was her last swing,” Hambly said. “After 250 jumps, that’s pretty good. We got to break down (Crittenden’s) technique and actually teach her (this spring). I think Naya could have a breakout year for us. She could be a dominant attacker and blocker, and she handles the ball better.”

Illinois, which played Saturday without injured Katie Roustio and Ali Bastianelli, finished its spring slate 2-1-1 with wins against Kansas State and Marquette, a loss to Minnesota in a Sweet 16 rematch and the tie with the Badgers.