Illinois finishes Illini Classic with two more sweeps

By Daniel Dexter

The Illinois volleyball team finished the Illini Classic with sweeps of Miami (Ohio) and Creighton on Saturday, finishing their opening weekend 3-0.

After struggling in early sets against Louisville on Friday, the Illini started the day off with a dominant victory over the Redhawks, sweeping them by scores of 25-11, 25-18 and 25-22. Creighton was more of a challenge for Illinois, but the result was the same, and the Illini completed their third sweep (25-22, 25-20, 25-17) of the weekend.

The team only recorded 20 errors between the two matches, which is two fewer than they had in one match the night before. Head coach Kevin Hambly added that the errors that were committed, particularly the five by outside hitter Jocelynn Birks, were more excusable than the ones on Friday.

“They are trying to do things that we want to do, and if they keep doing that they will get better,” Hambly said. “As opposed to (Friday), where we were just spraying balls out of bounds. It didn’t matter who was on the other side of the net. We couldn’t hit the ball on the court. It was nice to see them have a steady out.”

Hambly praised his team for staying calm in times of pressure, especially in the third set against Creighton, when the team fell behind 5-0. After a quick timeout, the Illini regrouped and their defense had little trouble the rest of the way, limiting the Bluejays to just 12 points.

The defense, according to Hambly, played better against Creighton after getting complacent in the  third set of the Miami match. He described the team as “soulless” in that set, and he was glad the players returned to form in the second match of the day.

Hambly was also impressed with the way freshman setter Jordyn Poulter progressed over the weekend. The setter recorded 34 assists and 10 digs in both games on Saturday, and her teammates are starting to get used to her leadership on the offensive end.

“Jordyn did a great job the entire weekend of running an offense that was spread out like we needed it to be,” Birks said. “She got everyone involved.”

Overall, the consensus amongst the team is that it is not quite where it needs to be when the team enter Big Ten play, but it is getting there. This early in the season, Hambly was much happier to see Illinois’ improvement over the course of the weekend above anything else.

“I don’t really worry about sweeps,” Hambly said. “I really just worry about how well we are playing and are we taking steps in the right direction. … I like the mentality that we finished that with.”

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