Viliunas, Hambly come to talk with Illini Drive

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

Illini Drive: You guys went to Indiana, got to play Purdue and Indiana, lost that first game against Purdue, came back and got a win on Saturday. Breakdown the weekend, what you guys thought and your assessment of how you played?

Alexis Viliunas: We’ve been working on a lot of things in practice about execution and just fighting. I think we’ve gotten a lot better at it from the middle of the season, and we’ve kind of lulled, but we’re up on the uphill climb. I think we’re headed in the right direction.

Kevin Hambly: I would agree with what she said. I think we had to work through some things, preconference was tough, and I think we lost some confidence. We need to figure out how to fight again. I thought we started out fighting, and we learned how to fight. And I thought we competed, which the difference is that you execute to compete, not just fight. I thought we were really competitive this weekend. We just didn’t execute at a high enough level in a couple of those sets. We had chances, and we didn’t make the plays to make it happen, but we played at a high level. And then against Indiana, we executed. In Indiana, we executed at a real high level. It was probably the cleanest match we’ve played all year. I think there is still some growing up for us to do, but I sure liked the way it ended, and I liked the way we played against Purdue as well. I just would have liked to have gotten that win.

ID: How similar do you feel to last season?

KH: It’s not even close. Like last year we felt, at times, like we were scrapping to even fight. And we’re close to being really good. We’re 3-3 in conference, we’re in sixth place. We’ve played one of the tougher schedules, but there’s a lot more wins out there for us this year than there were last year. Last year, we were scrapping to win. It doesn’t even feel close to the same as last year.

AV: I agree, a lot different. I think we’ve matured over the spring and even from last season, and in the summer we worked hard. Over the summer, we were in the gym pretty much four days a week trying to get better for this season, and it’s just a big difference.

KH: I don’t think people realize how much more difficult our schedule is this year than last year, and last year was tough, but we’ve played the teams. You look at top 10, we’ve played seven of those teams, and that’s why we have the losses we have. In conference, we’re 3-3, and the only one to be kind of disappointed about is Purdue because I felt like we could get that one. But Michigan State may be the best team in the country and Nebraska a top-10 team. I’m not saying we couldn’t beat those teams, but still they’re great teams, and last year we were losing to teams that weren’t even close to that. We’ve had great losses. It’s just, we’ve got to get eligible. If get eligible, we could have a serious run at the tournament.

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