(Editor's Note: Illini volleyball coach Chris Tamas appeared recently on the IlliniGuys Sports Spectacular syndicated radio show.)
August 26, 2023
(Cover photo courtesy Craig Pessman/Illinois Athletics)
Larry Smith -- Coach, what's been the focus to get ready for this year?
Chris Tamas -- You know, a lot of it for us was just kind of rest and recovery. And last year, we kind of got hit by the injury bug a little bit. It wasn't really anything that we can control just a random concussion here and you know, some of the bumps and bruises that go along in our sport. We just happened to catch one after the other and we just couldn't seem to catch a break. But you know, even with that being said, I'm still very proud of how the team performed last year. We had a lot of players that weren't playing the position they were designed for, yet we were still just a couple of points away from being some of the top in our conference. And so that's kind of always been a mark of ours to compete, you know, really tough and to kind of throw teams off balance. And I thought we did that last year.
Brad Sturdy -- If people don't follow Big 10 volleyball, they probably don't understand that there may not be a more dominant conference in any sports than the Big 10 and volleyball. I mean, it is loaded from top to bottom. What's it like going into a season knowing that there may be a time of the season when five of the nation's top 10 are in your conference?
CT -- Yeah, it's, that's exactly right. And it's usually five of the top 10. And it's seven in the top 15. And it's 10 in the top 25. And so, every night is just a battle. And that's, you know, I think that goes for a lot of our sports in the Big 10. That's kind of the beauty of being in the conference. And, of course, seeing this realignment, you know, no rest for the weary here. But, you know, that's a part of what attracted me to come back to the Big 10 in general. And I'd spent some stints at other Big 10 universities as an assistant. And when I got the offer to come here, it's like, no better challenge to come here and try to do it, you know, and a special place and, and it's been a great conference year-round. Every single night is a battle. And we're very battle tested by the end of the season. So it's always just a great conference to be in.
Mike Cagley -- You switched practices to the morning. How the heck do you get people up and going early in the morning?
CT -- Yeah, you know, we talked off air just about switching practices the morning. And, you know, I think part of it is, you know, we try to train our teams, you know, obviously, we like to hang banners that we have up here, and I guess it's only inside the gym for us, but we like to do all those great things. But it's not just about, you know, waking up and practicing well, and whatnot, it's about preparing for life. And, you know, this kind of change got brought about just with some class schedules and whatnot. It's just one of those things, where it's just a good practice for life and just making sure you're taking care of yourself, taking care of your bodies, and just being responsible and respectful of your teammates as well. Right? And just making sure that we're coming prepared to play and not staying up too late, making sure you get your work done, when it's time to get it done. And just go on from there. And so, you know, it's it is a different change this season. We did it one season before back in 2019. Yeah, and you're gonna, you know, whether you practice in the afternoon and they come tired from all their classes, or if they come in the morning, maybe, you know, without as much sleep it's still it's always a challenge. So whatever time of day you practice, there's gonna be some challenges associated with it and we're happy to take that on this year.
BS -- We talked about how difficult the big 10 schedule is. what are some big non-conference matches you have there?
CT -- Yeah, so you know, we want to kind of showcase our team around the state a little bit. And so, our first matchup is up in DeKalb at Northern Illinois. You know, after that we're going to play Valparaiso on a Tuesday, we're going to host Wichita State, Illinois State in between a football weekend. We're gonna go play USC up in Chicago, we're going to play Bradley in Peoria, we're going to play at Notre Dame. So we're a little bit more local than we normally be. But I just thought it was a good opportunity to just kind of test out the new schedule. And because we got so many teams that are close to us. You know, in proximity, I just thought it was a good opportunity to showcase the team. A chance for everyone to see Illinois.
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