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Illinois serves up a new head coach, Chris Tamas

Chris+Tamas+talks+to+the+press+for+the+first+time+about+being+Illinois%27+new+head+coach+of+the+Women%27s+Volleyball+team+at+Biefeldt+Athletics+Administration+Building+on+Friday%2C+Feb.+10.
Chris Tamas talks to the press for the first time about being Illinois' new head coach of the Women's Volleyball team at Biefeldt Athletics Administration Building on Friday, Feb. 10.

Chris Tamas talks to the press for the first time about being Illinois' new head coach of the Women's Volleyball team at Biefeldt Athletics Administration Building on Friday, Feb. 10.

Elisabeth Neely

Elisabeth Neely

Chris Tamas talks to the press for the first time about being Illinois' new head coach of the Women's Volleyball team at Biefeldt Athletics Administration Building on Friday, Feb. 10.


Kevin Hambly’s departure from the Illinois volleyball program was just as much a shock to the players as it was to the fans.

While they were all aware the Illini head coach had interviewed for the position at Stanford, it wasn’t until the morning of his decision that the players found out he was leaving.

This left a lot of questions for players. Who would take Hambly’s place? Would the assistant coaches stay on? Why did Hambly leave?

“I was shocked at first, but now looking back, it all makes sense about Kevin leaving,” outside hitter Jacqueline Quade said. “It was kind of scary just because there was a lot of uncertainty, but it was his dream job so you have to wish him well and everything.”

Hambly had a very close relationship with his players. Recent graduate Danielle Davis described hers as being similar to a father-daughter relationship.

“We were very anxious,” middle blocker Ali Bastianelli said. “Obviously losing Kevin we were disappointed, upset, like any emotion you could possibly feel we’ve felt in the past two weeks.”

Quade agreed, saying that everyone in the locker room was nervous about what the future might bring. However, the team continued to practice together despite not having someone to lead them, and Quade thinks the team is better for it.

“Everyone was anxious, everyone was worried, but I think it brought us all together because we were all going through it at the same time,” Quade said. “I think our team showed a lot of character.”

In the following weeks, the players were kept relatively in the dark about their future.

Athletic Director Josh Whitman met with players one-on-one to get to know them and see what they might want in a coach, but did not include them any further in the selection process.

For confidentiality reasons, the players were kept unaware of who their next coach would be until the day before he was introduced to the public.

Bastianelli trusted Whitman to make a good choice but that didn’t stop her initial anxiety.

“We knew when we heard Josh had hired someone that it would be someone good, it was just who?” Bastianelli said. “There’s so many good coaches out here, but when we heard it was Chris (Tamas), we couldn’t have asked for a better coach. Looking at his bio, looking at his resume, it’s very impressive.”

The players may not know anything about their new coach other than his bio, but they have seen his work firsthand.

Illinois faced off against Tamas’ former team, Nebraska, twice in the past season, falling both times to the top-ranked team in the country.

“It’s really exciting,” Bastianelli said. “We weren’t super familiar with him as a coach, you don’t scout coaches. But we did scout the players that he’s coached, and we know how good they are.”

Both Bastianelli and Quade are eager to work with Tamas, who won a national title as an assistant at Nebraska, a feat Illinois has yet to accomplish.

“It’s super exciting because obviously he knows what it takes (to win a championship),” Quade said. “Hopefully he can share that knowledge with us and help us maximize our potential as a team.”

jvdiaz2@dailyillini.com

@Jacob_Diaz31

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