Tamas leads Illini volleyball into new era


Austin Yattoni

Illinois’ Brandi Donnelly celebrates after a kill during the match against Northwestern at Huff Hall on Saturday, October 15. The Illini won 3-0.

By Christian Evans, Staff writer

The Kevin Hambly era for Illinois volleyball is over. Now it is Chris Tamas’ turn.

Tamas has a lot of experience as he has coached two years each at Nebraska, California Polytechnic, Minnesota and UC-Riverside.

While the Illini do not play in a regular season match until this weekend, Tamas got a chance to test the team’s readiness for the season in the Orange and Blue Scrimmage on Aug. 19.

He said the Illini started off slowly to begin the scrimmage, but picked up the pace nicely.

“I thought at the beginning that the serve and pass game was a little bit shaky,” Tamas said. “As the match went, it went really well; we tapped from the middle really well and our pins did some nice things out of system when the pass was not perfect. If we can get that to translate this weekend we will be in pretty good shape.”

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Along with a new coach, nine out of the 17 players on the roster are freshmen.

Tamas said while the inexperience may show early on in the season, they have prepared the players for what lies ahead.

“We have preached to them what to expect and a lot of them have come from high profile programs so they are used to it,” he said. “This is obviously another level, but hopefully we will set up a schedule where each weekend we get into more pressure hitting.”

One of those high profile freshmen is 6-foot-4 outside hitter Kylie Kuyava-Deberg. She is from Hudson, Iowa, and was ranked No. 15 on PrepVolleyball.com’s Senior Aces list.

Deberg said that herself and the rest of her fellow freshmen give the team more options than they had in the past.

“More hitting options,” she said. “Last year they had a couple hitters, now the whole front line can hit and we all have been learning a lot more shots.”

However, Deberg also said that the team does not always do a great job communicating a lot in practice and talking more will be key going forward with the season.

The lone senior on the team, Brandi Donnelly, said her experience will help the team out with communicating in clutch situations.

“I think it will be very important in big games,” Donnelly said. “I have played every year, so just talking to the younger (defensive specialists) to keep them calm and bringing that veteran experience that I have.”

Donnelly’s experience will certainly come in handy this weekend, as the Illini start off the season with three matches in two days in the Montana State Bobcat Classic.

Illinois will play Gonzaga and Montana State on Friday at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m, respectively. The team will then finish the tournament against the Air Force Saturday at 11:30 a.m.

Coach Tamas said the goal for this tournament and the season is progression.

“We just want to be a team that gets better every day,” Tamas said. “We had a large group coming in and we want to improve as a team. It is just about adding layers and making sure we can do the simple things well, and going forward from there.”

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