The Daily Illini

Illinois volleyball’s recruiting class highlighted with top-25 recruit nationally

Illinois+head+coach+Kevin+Hambly+talks+to+his+team+during+a+time-out+during+the+game+against+Rutgers+at+George+Huff+Hall%2C+on+Saturday%2C+Sept.+27th.+The+Illini+won+3-0.
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Illinois volleyball’s recruiting class highlighted with top-25 recruit nationally

Illinois head coach Kevin Hambly talks to his team during a time-out during the game against Rutgers at George Huff Hall, on Saturday, Sept. 27th. The Illini won 3-0.

Illinois head coach Kevin Hambly talks to his team during a time-out during the game against Rutgers at George Huff Hall, on Saturday, Sept. 27th. The Illini won 3-0.

Illinois head coach Kevin Hambly talks to his team during a time-out during the game against Rutgers at George Huff Hall, on Saturday, Sept. 27th. The Illini won 3-0.

Illinois head coach Kevin Hambly talks to his team during a time-out during the game against Rutgers at George Huff Hall, on Saturday, Sept. 27th. The Illini won 3-0.

By James Boyd, Staff writer

There are seven seniors on the Illinois volleyball team this season, but next year the Illini will only have one.

Outside hitter Michelle Strizak, opposite hitter Naya Crittenden and middle blocker Katie Stadick highlight a graduating class that has contributed significantly. Strizak and Crittenden are ranked second and third on the team in total kills this season, and Stadick is second on the team in blocks with a total of 79.

Head coach Kevin Hambly signed five new players to help quell the effects of his team’s turnover, and mentioned that his former assistant coach helped a lot throughout the recruitment process.

“We’re really, really excited about this class,” Hambly said. “When I hired Hillary Haen a couple years ago we knew that we’d have five scholarships in this class. (She) tried to get us a group of players that could keep us relevant for a long time, and I think she did a fantastic job.”

Hambly said that other teams in the Big Ten are adding more size to their rosters and are also playing at a faster pace. His recruitment approach mirrored that of his opponents, and he now believes the Illini have one of the top recruiting classes in the nation with their new additions.

The Illini currently have six players who are actually from Illinois, but none of the players who signed this week are in-state recruits. Hambly said that Illinois is one of the top places to look for volleyball talent, and that his staff tried to recruit some in-state players but it didn’t work out.

Kylie Kuyava-Deberg, an outside hitter from Iowa, is ranked No. 15 in the country by prepvolleyball.com and is the highest ranked recruit in Illinois’ incoming class.

Middle blocker Tyanna Omazic, outside and opposite hitter Megan Cooney, outside and opposite hitter Emily Hollowell and outside hitter Marijke Van Dyke were the other four players who signed letters of intent for Illinois. All are ranked within the top 66 in the country, and stand at 6-foot-2 or taller.

“I think (Kuyava-Deberg) is the one people look at as maybe the star of this class,” Hambly said. “She’s long, she jumps really well and she’s got a great arm. She’s played six rotations (on the) outside. I expect her to come in and try to do that for us right away. I think she’s got some really, really tremendous talent.”

Hambly said that the rest of the recruiting class could also become special players on his team, and added that when they start their careers in 2017, it will usher in a new era of Illini volleyball.

Hambly believes that sophomores Jordyn Poulter and Ali Basitanelli, along with junior Brandi Donnelly will help the younger players get acclimated to the program.

“The players that are going to return for us next year that have to be the leadership for this group have played a lot,” Hambly said. “We’re going to be really, really young and to me there’s excitement in that. There’s a lot of growth and a lot of learning that needs to take place. But I feel great about the leadership going forward.”

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