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Schedule allows Illinois volleyball more practice time

Illinois+head+coach+Kevin+Hambly+talks+to+his+team+during+a+timeout+in+the+match+against+Northwestern+at+Huff+Hall+on+Saturday%2C+October+15.+The+Illini+won+3-0.
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Schedule allows Illinois volleyball more practice time

Illinois head coach Kevin Hambly talks to his team during a timeout in the match against Northwestern at Huff Hall on Saturday, October 15. The Illini won 3-0.

Illinois head coach Kevin Hambly talks to his team during a timeout in the match against Northwestern at Huff Hall on Saturday, October 15. The Illini won 3-0.

Austin Yattoni

Illinois head coach Kevin Hambly talks to his team during a timeout in the match against Northwestern at Huff Hall on Saturday, October 15. The Illini won 3-0.

Austin Yattoni

Austin Yattoni

Illinois head coach Kevin Hambly talks to his team during a timeout in the match against Northwestern at Huff Hall on Saturday, October 15. The Illini won 3-0.

By James Boyd, staff writer

When the Illinois volleyball team began conference play, the first four weeks consisted of a game Wednesday and another game on either Saturday or Sunday.

The Illini have gone 6-2 during that span, but the rigorous travel schedule left little room for extended practices. 

Head coach Kevin Hambly never made excuses about his team’s schedule, but he said he was glad that the beginning part of his team’s Big Ten schedule is over.

“This has been a tough run here,” Hambly said. “Going Wednesday, Saturday, we’re basically just preparing for matches and trying to get rest. Tuesday and Wednesday we’re going to get after it, and Thursday we’ll be able to have a short, intense practice.”

The Illini will play in Friday and Saturday matches for the rest of their conference schedule. Hambly said that the extended practice time will allow him and his staff to focus on tedious aspects of his team’s performance and should result in improvements on offense and defense.

“To get better at it, you got to get worse at first,” Hambly said. “So we’re going to have to get worse for a couple days before we can get better at it. I’m looking forward to that. We can’t do that in a middle of a match. We can’t afford that; not in this league.”

Illinois moves up in latest AVCA Poll

Illinois defeated then No. 14 Michigan State and unranked Northwestern in straight sets last week with strong performances from sophomore Jordyn Poulter and junior Brandi Donnelly.

Donnelly was named Big Ten Conference Defensive Player of the Week and Poulter was honored as the Big Ten Conference Setter of the Week.

Going undefeated at home helped Illinois improve its ranking in the latest American Volleyball Coaches Association poll— moving from No. 24 to No. 22 in the country.

The Illini were ranked No. 14 in the preseason, but their initial standing took a big hit after the team went on a four-match skid. The losing streak began against Missouri State in the Illini Classic, culminating in a straight-sets loss to Oregon and eventually made the team drop out of the Top 25 altogether.

Since then, the Illini have gone 11-2 overall and 6-2 in conference play with their only losses coming against then No. 1 Nebraska and No. 2 Wisconsin.

“I would like to have those ones back and play better,” Hambly said. “But we’re in good shape moving forward in what’s going to be a really tough schedule for the rest of the season.”

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