Kevin Hambly and Morganne Criswell stop by the Illini Drive

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

Illini Drive: This weekend you played North Carolina and Duke at 0-2, and still hung onto the rankings here at 24. Coach or Morganne, do you want to break down what happened this weekend?

Morganne Criswell: Obviously, we had a minor mishap Friday night against North Carolina. I think that loss really hit us hard, and that was the point where we started to say, “OK, we need to make a change. Something within us has to happen and something has to snap.” We need to start winning. We need to start changing things, and so even though we didn’t get the win against Duke, I think that something in our heads, our mental toughness, the mental changes that we made, helped us push through. It’s working towards the way we wanted to start playing.

ID: Coach, do you want to give us your breakdown of what you saw?

Kevin Hambly: We played very flat and uninspired on Friday, which was a surprise to me because I thought we went toe-to-toe in our final match against Texas, the defending national champion. We had a battle. We played hard and we competed, so I thought North Carolina, who’s not a defending national champion but a very good team, would be a team that we’ve got a good shot to beat if we play at our best. We came out really flat and it was shocking, it was surprising, it was disappointing. And we talked about some things after that and the girls brought up some things. We played against Duke, and I think we played hard, we competed, we gave a great effort, but we were a little frantic when it came to the end of the sets. We came to those sets and got a little bit frantic, and I think they wanted to win so bad they didn’t know how to control their emotions. You could just see it. It wasn’t for a lack of trying, it was for over-trying. Like what Morganne was talking about with mental toughness, we got to be a little bit tougher going into the weekend, and I thought that the schedule will prepare us mentally for being tough because you need that in each match. But it took a little shot at them and had the opposite effect of what I was hoping for. So we have to overcome that now, and it’s a very easy conference. In the Big Ten, we only have 9 or so teams ranked.

ID: My next question is about the Big Ten conference compared to other years.

KH: Time will tell. In 2010, there was no weekend where anyone … no teams that got swept … one won a match on the weekend. If you beat Purdue, you used to have a good shot at beating Indiana. Now that one weekend was when Penn State went in and lost both matches, we went in and had a chance to win the conference that year, and we lost both matches. That year was really, really tough. It’s looking like this one’s going to be similar. Indiana’s a legit team. Iowa’s much improved, which we’ll find out on Friday. The top end’s great. We’ve got Penn State at No. 1, Minnesota and Nebraska. Michigan was in the final four last year, and they’re loaded, so it’s not going to be easy. But we’re one of those teams that can compete to win the whole thing. We have the talent; it’s just about overcoming some of the stuff Morganne was talking about.

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