Fighting Illini Athletics added several members to the family recently, as the early National Letter of Intent signing period started Nov. 12.
Birks, Criswell and McMahon (MVP) named All-Tournament
Illinois led an efficient attack, outhitting the 49ers .333 to .102 with 10 blocks
Proceeds will help fund the volleyball team's next trip to Europe
Illinois will face Big Ten-foe Purdue Friday at State Farm Center in the NCAA Regional Semifinal
Illinois vs. Ohio State at Huff Hall Wednesday, November 12, 2014
The Illini swept the visiting Hoosiers at Huff Hall on Friday, October 24th to kick off homecoming weekend!
Pictures from Illinois' Big Ten matchup against Maryland.
The Fighting Illini faced off against North Carolina at Huff Hall during the Illini Classic!
Illinois takes on Long Beach State during "Stuff Huff". The Fighting Illini won 3-0
Kevin Hambly has taken Illinois volleyball to new heights in his tenure in Champaign. In his five years as head coach, Illinois is 114-51 with four trips to the NCAA Sweet 16, including 2011's historic run to the national championship match.
As a result, Hambly was named 2011 Volleyball Magazine's National Coach of the Year. Following the season, director of athletics Mike Thomas announced an extension of Hambly's contract through the 2016 season.
In 2013, Hambly guided the Fighting Illini through the most difficult schedule in the nation, in which the Illini captured 10 wins during a school-record 22 matches against ranked opponents. The Illini were the only team in the country to face all four teams that reached the Final Four, and took on eight of the 10 teams that finished the year ranked in the AVCA Top 10. Despite the monstrous slate, Hambly led the Orange and Blue to a fourth-place finish in the Big Ten in a year in which the conference was arguably the best it had ever been and by far the strongest conference in the nation. After a rough non-conference slate, the Illini entered Big Ten play sitting at 4-6 on the year. A tremendous second-half push in which the Orange and Blue won seven of their final nine matches punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament, earning the No. 13 overall seed. The Illini defeated Morehead State and No. 22 Marquette to return to the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in five years under Hambly, where No. 19 Purdue finally ended Illinois' run.
Three Illini earned postseason honors under Hambly in 2013, as sophomore Jocelynn Birks was named Third-Team AVCA All-America, First-Team All-Northeast Region and was a unanimous All-Big Ten selection. Senior Jennifer Beltran, who became Illinois' all-time career digs leader early in the season and finished ranked second all-time in the Big Ten, captured All-America honorable mention and All-Region honors, while junior Liz McMahon claimed All-Region and All-Big Ten honorable mentions.
In a "tough act to follow" situation, a young 2012 team faced several challenges. With two rookies and a sophomore replacing a pair of All-American outside hitters, Hambly's team had a lot to learn in seemingly no time at all, facing the third-most difficult schedule in the nation. The Illini swept No. 15 Iowa State in the 2012 home opener, then closed out the pre-conference season with a sweep of the Time Warner Cable Texas Invitational, which included a road victory over eventual NCAA champion No. 6 Texas. Other season highlights included a come-from-behind 3-2 victory at Michigan State, in true-freshman setter Alexis Viliunas' first career start, and a 3-1 victory over future NCAA semifinalist Michigan on Senior Night.
In 2011, Illinois reached several milestones. The team swept a season series from four-time defending NCAA champion Penn State for the first time in school history. Illinois was the last team to lose its first match, starting the season 20-0 and resulting in the school's first-ever No. 1 ranking. A total of six schools held the No. 1 ranking, but none for longer than Illinois. The Illini won the Gainesville Regional to advance to the program's first National Semifinal since 1988 The Illini defeated No. 1 USC in the National Semifinal San Antonio in an epic five-set match. The final point lasted more than a minute and was one of the top plays on ESPN's SportsCenter that night. With the victory over the Women of Troy, the Illini advanced to meet UCLA in the school's first ever national championship match.
Following the championship run, Hambly was elected president of the American Volleyball Coaches Association, a post he took over in January 2013 and which runs through December 2015.
Illinois went 26-6 in his first year as head coach, finishing in sole possession of second place in the Big Ten and reaching the Sweet 16.
His second year as a head coach brought victories over a pair of No. 2-ranked teams, including eventual national champion Penn State, who fell to the Illini in five sets in front of the first sellout at Huff Hall in 18 years.
Since his arrival in Champaign, the Illini have garnered three top-10 recruiting classes, including the 2011 Class that ranked No. 3 nationally. The 2011 team included 11 players who were top-60 prospects of their respective class, including Liz McMahon, who was No. 3; Anna Dorn, who was No. 6; Colleen Ward, who was No. 7; and Michelle Bartsch, who was No. 16.
His teams have gone head-to-head with some of the powers of the game, both in the Big Ten and in the non-conference, and have done so with a measure of success. The Illini are 37-13 in the pre-conference schedule in the five years with Hambly as head coach and have finished runner-up in the Big Ten Conference three times.
A total of seven players have earned 11 All-America honors, including outside hitter Laura DeBruler, who became the fourth First-Team AVCA All-American in 2009, and Ward, who accomplished that feat in 2011. In addition, Bartsch was named a First Team All-American by Volleyball Magazine.
The Illini have produced in the classroom, combining for 43 Academic All-Big Ten honors in the last five seasons, with Johannah Bangert being one of just six players to earn First Team Academic All-America in 2010. In 2012, the Illini led the conference with 10 All-Big Ten selections.
The interest in the volleyball program is at a height that hasn't been seen in a generation. Hambly is involved in the community, a regular requested speaker for area groups. He conducts Chalk Talks for the Illinois volleyball booster club, "The Networkers," before every home game, giving fans an inside look at the scouting report for that night's match. Membership in that organization continues to grow.
That has translated in a spike in attendance where the team had three crowds of 3,900 or more in 2011, including a sellout crowd of 4,261 in an undefeated showdown with Purdue. The 2012 season featured five crowds of 3,000 or more, including the largest opening night crowd in Illini history, when 3,770 fans "Stuffed" Huff for the home opener against No. 15 Iowa State and the 2011 NCAA banner-raising ceremony. Illinois had an additional five 3,000+ crowds in 2013, including a mark of 7,061 against Iowa at State Farm Center, the largest volleyball-only crowd in program history. The fan base in 2013 set a new all-time record for average attendance, with a mean crowd size of 3,117.
Twelve of the top 20 all-time Illinois crowds have come in the Hambly era, including four of the top five.
Hambly was named the seventh head coach in the program's history and just the third in the last quarter century on Jan. 8, 2008. He replaced Don Hardin, who retired after 13 years as program head at Illinois. Hambly, who had a number of years of international coaching experience, served as assistant coach for the Fighting Illini for five years prior, the first two years as a volunteer assistant and the last three as a full-time assistant. His impact was felt in every area of the program.
Hambly was in charge of practice planning, training and scouting as well as recruiting in his final years as an assistant. The level of play was raised over his time at Illinois, bringing with him many of the techniques and philosophies he developed under Toshi Yoshida, the U.S. National team coach for the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
With Hambly serving as an assistant coach, the U.S. went from 12th to first in the Federation of International Volleyball (FIVB) world rankings in the nine months leading up to the games for just the second time. In those four years, the U.S. won the NORCECA championship four years in a row, won a silver medal at the World Championships, a bronze medal at the World Cup and a gold and two bronze medals at World Grand Prix Tournaments.
A native of Simi Valley, California, Hambly was an All-American in volleyball at Royal High School and chose to play that sport at BYU, leading the nation in blocks in 1995. Hambly was named to the Volleyball Monthly All-Freshman Team in 1992, was selected as a third-team All-American in 1994 and earned American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) First Team All-America honors in 1995. The Cougars ended the season ranked in the top 10 in the nation three times and came within one win of the Final Four twice in Hambly's playing days.
Hambly played professionally for Montpellier University Club in France, leading the league in hitting efficiency and in blocks before beginning his coaching career as an assistant at UNLV in 1997. In his four years in Las Vegas, the Rebels produced nine all-conference performers. Hambly also founded and directed the Rebel volleyball club, which evolved into the highly respected Club Las Vegas team and founded the men's volleyball club team at UNLV. While at BYU he also served as the head coach of the Highline Volleyball Club's 16 & under teams for two years.
His experience with USA Volleyball began in 2001 where, in addition to serving as an assistant for the national team, he was also the head coach of the USA Women's National Training Team for two tournaments during his tenure. In 2002, he guided the team to fifth at the Pan American Cup in Mexico. In 2003, he led the team to third place at the Mexicali Centenarian Women's Volleyball Cup and second at the Pan American Cup. Hambly continues to serve USA Volleyball as a consultant during try-outs.
He also served as an assistant coach for Minnesota of the United States Professional Volleyball, helping lead the Chill to the league championship in 2002.
Hambly graduated with highest honors from the University of Illinois in 2006 with a bachelor's of science degree in recreation, sport and tourism with an emphasis in sports management. He and his wife Mary (Coleman) Hambly, a 1999 Illinois graduate and former Illini volleyball player, have two daughters, Quinn and Maura.