Illini volleyball moves from No. 7 to No. 4 in nation

After going 3-0 “this past weekend”: and 6-0 for the season, Illinois moved from the No. 7 spot to No. 4 in the country.

With No. 3 USC, No. 4 Texas and No. 5 Nebraska losing this past weekend, teams like Illinois, current-No. 5 Washington and current-No. 6 Minnesota have all moved up. Seven Big Ten teams are in the top-25.

*Illini continue to shuffle volleyball lineups*

Several players saw significant playing time this past weekend at the State Farm Illini Classic, especially in Saturday morning’s Houston game.

Freshman “Morganne Criswell played”: in three of the four sets against Houston, the most sets she’s played in one match.

“It was amazing, to finally make it on the court and playing with the girls,” Criswell said. “The girls are so much fun to play with and they’re very supportive and just the energy from the crowd, it’s awesome to be out there.”

The outside hitter recorded eight kills with a hitting percentage of .278.

Head coach Kevin Hambly said it was good to see her out on the court.

“She was a freshman; she was hot and then she was cold, that’s what happens,” Hambly said. “I think when she figures out the college game she could be an exceptional attacker.”

Senior Rachel Feldman also got her second start at libero against Houston, where she had nine digs. Hambly said playing Feldman was decided even before the tournament started to get everyone comfortable in certain situations.

With Feldman at libero instead of the back row, sophomore Jazmine Orozco found more playing time as well.

“I didn’t have any expectations coming in to play,” Orozco said. “When I found out Rachel was playing libero and I was playing back row, that’s exciting … with our team everyone’s always ready to come in at any time. As soon as Kevin looks down the bench, all of us are like, ‘Who’s going in?’”

*Overall weekend performance was up and down*

After claiming the State Farm Classic for the sixth straight year, the Illini have a variety of game situations under their belt.

With games like BYU, Houston and then-No. 21 Dayton, the Illini have faced tough crowds, small adversity and a two-set deficit to come back and win, respectively. For Hambly, this past weekend was still not perfect.

“(This weekend was) up and down, but I like the way we ended,” Hambly said referring to the 3-2 win over No. 23 Dayton. “I think Annie (Luhrsen)set great in that match, I think she set great in the whole match. I think we got her in a nice rhythm.”

Despite currently being undefeated, Hambly believes the performance against Dayton gave the Illini an idea of who they are and what they want to accomplish.

“I thought we started to find our passion, started to find our competitiveness, started to find how we want to run our offense,” Hambly said. “I think we can play better defense and we will … I think we learned a lot.”