Volleyball Magazine Tabs Hambly As Nation's Top Coach
Jan. 13, 2012
Champaign, Ill. - Volleyball Magazine has released its postseason honors for the 2011 season and Illinois' Kevin Hambly has been named the publication's National Coach of the Year. VBM also named Michelle Bartsch a first-team All-American and Colleen Ward a second-team All-American.
Hambly, in his eighth year at Illinois and third as head coach, led Illinois to the national runner-up spot last month. The Illini spent four weeks at No. 1 in both the AVCA and Volleyball Magazine polls, the first time the Illini reached that pinnacle. The Illini swept the season series from four-time defending national champion Penn State for the first time in school history and earned the No. 3 national seed in the NCAA Tournament.
In a short time, Hambly has built the Illini into one of the elite teams in the country through strong recruiting, including this year's freshman class, which was ranked third in the nation. This year's Illinois team had a total of 11 players ranked in the top 60 of their respective recruiting classes, including Ward and Bartsch, who were ranked No. 7 and No. 16, respectively, in the Class of 2008. In addition, Anna Dorn was ranked sixth in the Class of 2010 and Liz McMahon was No. 3 in the Class of 2011.
Hambly has posted a record of 82-20 in his three years at Illinois, including a 32-5 mark in 2011. Only three Illinois teams in history won more games, and the Simi Valley, Calif., native guided the Illini to first Final Four in 23 years and third in school history. Never before in program history had the team reached the title match.
Hambly joined the Illini as a volunteer assistant in 2004 and in his first month saw Illinois defeat No. 1 USC, ending the Women of Troy's then NCAA record 52-match winning streak. Ironically it was that same team who, while again ranked No. 1, that the Illini faced in the National Semifinals this season. In one of the most memorable NCAA Tournament matches in history, Illinois outlasted USC in five sets to advance to the national championship match. The incredible last point, which lasted 68 seconds, highlighted the run to the finals.
Under his tutelage, the Illinois program has produced seven players who have amassed 12 All-America honors - Johannah Bangert, Bartsch, Jessica Belter, Laura DeBruler, Hillary Haen, Erin Virtue and Ward.
Illinois has been ranked as a top-nine national seed in the NCAA Tournament the last four years, each time making the Sweet 16 round of the event. The Illini have finished second in the Big Ten in each of his three years as head coach.
Bartsch, an All-Big Ten performer and third-team AVCA All-American, earned MVP honors for three tournaments - the BYU/Nike Invitational, the State Farm Illini Classic and the Big Ten/Big East Challenge. She ranks second in attack attempts (4,776), fourth in block assists (422), seventh in kills (1,644), eighth in total blocks (451), and 10th in digs (1,035) and on Illinois' career list. Her 466 digs in 2011 are the seventh most by an Illinois player in a single-season. She led Illinois in kills with 557 in 2011, the fifth-most in a single-season in school history.
Bartsch, who was named Big Ten co-Player of the Week on Sept. 26, became just the sixth Illinois player with multiple 20-20 performances when she did so on consecutive days (vs. Tennessee and Dayton). She added a third 20-20 match with 22 kills and 22 digs vs. USC. Bartsch ranked sixth in the Big Ten in both kills (3.83 per set) and points (4.39 per set).
Ward, an all-Big Ten performer and first-team AVCA All-American, also topped the 1,500 kills mark for her career, combining her numbers at both Florida and Illinois. She was named to the all-tournament team at both the BYU/Nike Invitational and the State Farm Illini Classic. She had double-digit kills in 32 of 37 matches with 22 double-doubles. Ward ranked seventh in the conference in kills (3.78 per set) and points (4.23 per set). The Naperville, Ill., native had 20 kills and 20 digs in a straight-sets victory over Northwestern, marking just the second time in Illinois history that a player has had a 20-20 performance in a three-set match.