The Daily Illini

Illinois volleyball eyes pivotal weekend

Illinois+head+coach+Kevin+Hambly+talks+to+his+team+after+the+match+against+Northwestern+at+Huff+Hall+on+Saturday%2C+October+15.+The+Illini+won+3-0.
Illinois head coach Kevin Hambly talks to his team after 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 after 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 after the match against Northwestern at Huff Hall on Saturday, October 15. The Illini won 3-0.

By Jacob Diaz, Staff writer

Illinois volleyball has lost five straight matches, and with only six games to go, head coach Kevin Hambly knows that his team needs to make a U-turn in order to save its season.

“We have to get at least four wins (to secure a spot in the NCAA tournament),” Hambly said. “I think if we won five we’d be a no-brainer. I think four gives us a chance, five is a no-brainer. I know that’s a lot to ask, we have a tough schedule coming up.”

This weekend, Illinois plays the No. 2 and No. 3 teams in the country, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Also left on the schedule are Ohio St. who only recently fell out of the top 25, and No. 10 Penn St.

It has not been easy to pinpoint a cause for the losing streak. Some of the Illini’s stats are essentially the same as they were before the streak began, and some individual players have been better during the losing streak.

“We just haven’t been able to finish off these matches,” Hambly said. “We’ve outhit our opponents and lost, we’ve done a lot of things that are pretty good, and we’re just a couple plays away. But we haven’t played bad, we’ve played pretty well actually.”

Hambly is hopeful that returning home to Huff Hall will sort the team out to an extent, and put them back in the win column. This weekend’s games open with a visit from No. 3 Wisconsin, who Illinois lost to on Oct. 8.

That match was one of the Illini’s best despite the loss, but the team couldn’t recover from a third set collapse.

“We had a great plan against them, we just didn’t finish off that third set,” Hambly said. “We didn’t serve as aggressively as we needed to.”

Freshman Jacqueline Quade, whose contributions have gone missing in the past few weeks, led the Illini in kills per set until recently. But she hasn’t recorded double-digit kills since the Illini defeated Michigan State on Oct. 12.

Hambly and Quade both agree that one of the biggest reasons that Quade has hit a wall is that their opponents have now seen enough of her to create gameplans to stifle her. Because of this, Quade is trying to adjust her play style, and add a few different weapons to her arsenal, to keep her opponents guessing.

“Shots that I had been scoring on aren’t working as much anymore,” Quade said. “I’m primarily a cross-court hitter, so try to mix in some line (shots) to keep them off-balance, and some off-speed stuff to keep them honest.”

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@Jacob_Diaz31

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