Illini volleyball’s offense hitting stride


Illinois’ Liz McMahon was one of 30 seniors across the country to be nominated for the Senior CLASS Award, which celebrates student-athletes on and off the volleyball court.

While the Illinois volleyball team’s record was 2-1 this weekend at the Blue Raider Bash, the team’s offense was firing on all cylinders.

The Illini hit over .300 twice on the weekend for the third and fourth times on the season. Illinois hit .315 against Middle Tennessee State and hit a season-high .404 against Washington State on Saturday.

“We were really, really good offensively.” Head coach Kevin Hambly said. “I think we hit .400 in two of the matches and almost .300 in the other one, which are good numbers.”

The Illini are currently ranked 15th in the nation in hitting percentage at .285 — a substantial improvement from a season ago. In 2013, Illinois hit .210 as a team, which was the ninth-best mark in the Big Ten.

Hambly continues to stress the need for balance on offense, although he said the team was distributing the ball to the middles more often over the weekend. Starting middles Anna Dorn and Katie Stadick both had season-highs in kills and attempts Saturday in a loss to Virginia Tech.

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    Stadick was especially impressive against Washington State, hitting .700 on 10 attacks with no errors.

    “We won’t have complete balance because when we’re out of system we can only set certain places,” Hambly said. “We want to have tremendous balance and I think we’re getting closer to that.”

    McMahon nominated for Senior CLASS Award

    After already being named Illini Class MVP, as well as being on three different All-Tournament teams, opposite side hitter Liz McMahon was nominated for the Senior CLASS Award.

    McMahon is one of 30 seniors across the country — only one of two players from the Big Ten, along with Michigan State libero Kori Moster — to be nominated for the award.

    The CLASS Award is an acronym for “Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School,” and celebrates student-athletes who achieve on and off the court.

    McMahon, also a preseason All-Big Ten selection, is second on the squad with 92 kills and third in total blocks. Her .337 hitting percentage and 3.29 kills per set are both career-highs. McMahon was also named Academic All-Big Ten in 2012 and 2013.

    The award will be cut to 10 finalists in October and the winner will be announced during the NCAA Championship in December.

    Updating the polls

    The Illini dropped down to No. 16 in the latest AVCA poll after the Blue Raider Bash and are the eighth-ranked team in the Big Ten. Penn State and Wisconsin are Nos. 3 and 4, respectively, while Nebraska is No. 9. Purdue is just outside of the top-10 at No. 11.

    Previous opponents Stanford and UCLA are also represented in the poll: Stanford is an overwhelming No. 1, taking 52 of 60 possible first-place votes. The Bruins moved up three spots this week to No. 22.

    Stephen can be reached at [email protected] and @steve_bourbon.