Hambly pleased with 2-1 start

Hambly pleased with 2-1 start


LONG BEACH, Calif. — Going 2-1 in a season-opening tournament might not grab the attention of the college volleyball world. Then again, it depends on the tournament.

The fact that Illinois won two of three at the Long Beach State Mizuno Invitational, with both victories against ranked opponents, certainly spoke volumes to its coach.

“Either this tournament or the Texas tournament probably are the toughest (regular season) tournaments in the country,” Kevin Hambly said Saturday night. “To come out with two wins against ranked opponents ... I feel good about what we learned over this weekend and how we had to play. We had to learn how to fight, and I thought we competed exceptionally hard (Saturday night).”

They needed to in order to knock off No. 17 Kentucky in a five-set battle. One day after sweeping No. 18 Florida State, Illinois rallied to capture a 20-25, 25-19, 22-25, 25-19, 15-9 victory.

Hambly’s lineup switch after the third set helped set the comeback in motion. With outside hitter Liz McMahon struggling on the attack — she finished with 10 hitting errors and hit minus-.079 — he moved the junior to the right side and inserted  Morganne Criswell. Criswell produced four kills in eight swings, helping Illinois hit .400 in
the fourth set and .263 in the fifth.

“It worked out well,” Hambly said. “I think it proved we have a pretty versatile team.”

Meanwhile, McMahon ignored her hitting woes and produced 10 blocks, including one solo.

“She was unbelievable,” Hambly said. “She stuffed everything they sent her way.”