Hambly chats with Illini Drive

By Daily Illini Staff Report

Editor’s note: The following is a partial transcript from an Illini Drive interview with Illinois volleyball head coach Kevin Hambly.

Illini Drive: When Illinois flashed up on the screen, what was going through your head? What was your reaction?

Kevin Hambly: Well, so I had a pretty good idea we’d play Missouri once I saw Missouri was the No. 1 seed (in the regional). Because of the location, we thought Penn State would be in Kentucky and Missouri would be here. So once Missouri came up, I expected to play in some place that was seeded against Missouri. I thought we’d be playing the 13th seed, I thought it’d be Marquette. And then Marquette came up and they weren’t seeded, I had a pretty good idea it was going to be us next and it popped up and there it was. I talked to a couple people in the committee and a lot of it had to do with our schedule, just we had a lot of great wins, and they said we had too many good wins to not be seeded compared to everyone else in the country. It wasn’t just about who we played, but we did have a lot of great wins. It was just we played a lot of great teams, so our record was not great.

ID: You ended up having the No. 1 overall strength of schedule, right?

KH: Yeah, No. 1, and we played five more top-25 teams than anyone else, so by a lot. I know, I’ve been told I’m crazy. If you asked our girls, they would do it again. They liked that there were no games, no matches, that you had a break. Everyone wants to be challenged. I don’t know if they knew how big a challenge we actually put in front of them. With all that said, we earned the tournament, there’s no question. We didn’t back into the tournament. According to the committee, we were in the seed as well. It was interesting, and I was surprised.

ID: Surprised at the seeding?

KH: Yeah, because I thought we had to beat either Penn State or Minnesota to be seeded, and we lost both of those and still got it.

ID: You guys did win six of the final eight.

KH: We were 9-12 something like that coming down or the stretch, we had a good run at the end and took care of the business against the teams we should. Two of the teams we lost were the teams ahead of us in our conference.

ID: Obviously, you had the last game of the season was Minnesota and you lost, how do you feel about the team as a whole and how they’re playing? Do you feel like this is where you want it to be?

KH: Against Minnesota, a couple of our kids were pretty sick. Especially Birks, and she’s a big deal for us. She struggled. It wasn’t the typical Birks, it wasn’t the Birks you saw against Northwestern. But we still could have played a whole lot better with some more energy. How we played against Northwestern was as good as we’ve played all year. So I’m going to think about that match and just what we were doing, because we were at 100 percent and did a nice job. We’ve had a nice job here at the end, and I feel confident we can continue it.

Illini Drive can be reached at [email protected] and @IlliniDrive.