Huskers Battle Past Illinois, 3-1
LINCOLN, Neb. - The No. 7 Nebraska volleyball team completed the first half of its Big Ten schedule with a 3-1 (25-19, 24-26, 25-20, 25-17) win over Illinois on Saturday night in front of a Bob Devaney Sports Center crowd of 8,256.
The Huskers now stand at 16-4 overall and 9-1 in the Big Ten at the midway point of the conference slate, good for a tie for first in the league standings with Penn State. Nebraska won its nation-leading 23rd straight match at home behind six service aces and a .314 hitting percentage. Illinois (16-5, 7-3 Big Ten) hit .252 and had a 9-7 edge in blocks, but the Huskers led in kills, 68-52, and in digs, 66-54. After Illinois hit .308 through the first three sets, the Huskers dominated the fourth set by holding the Illini to .103 with seven hitting errors.
Mikaela Foecke continued her strong weekend with 17 kills and eight digs. Annika Albrecht had a double-double of 15 kills and 14 digs, and Kelly Hunter had a double-double as well with 51 assists and 11 digs to go with six kills.
Jazz Sweet posted 11 kills on .526 hitting, while Briana Holman finished in double figures with 10 kills. Lauren Stivrins had nine kills and a team-high three blocks and hit .467. Kenzie Maloney had a match-high 17 digs, and Sydney Townsend had 13.
Ali Bastianelli had 13 kills on .765 hitting for Illinois along with five blocks. Jordyn Poulter had 43 assists and four blocks.
Set 1: The Huskers went on a 6-0 run to take an 8-3 lead with Hunter stressing Illinois with her serve. Foecke had two kills in the run, while Holman and Sweet each had one. Illinois pulled within 12-11 before committing a service error and surrendering a dump kill to Hunter. After an Illini timeout, Foecke blasted a kill, Illinois hit wide and Maloney served an ace for a 17-11 Husker lead via a 5-0 run. Illinois trimmed the deficit to 19-17, but Albrecht earned sideout for the Huskers with a kill. After a kill by Sweet, Albrecht added another one and teamed with Stivrins for a block and a 23-18 lead. NU hit .395 in the 25-19 win with five players recording at least three kills.
Set 2: Holman and Albrecht tallied early kills to gain a 6-4 advantage for the Huskers. But Illinois used a 6-0 run to go up 12-8. Foecke got the Huskers out of the rotation with a kill, but the Illini held firm and pushed the lead to five at 15-10. The Huskers chipped away to get within 18-16 after consecutive kills by Sweet and Albrecht, but the teams would trade sideouts for the next 10 rallies to a 23-21 Illinois lead as NU struggled to get closer than two points. Finally, the Huskers held serve after an Illinois hitting error pulled them within 23-22. After an Illini timeout, freshman Hayley Densberger served an ace to tie the set at 23-23. The Huskers then hit long to give Illinois set point, but Sweet produced a timely kill to tie it at 24-24. But the Illini won 26-24 after a kill and a block to even the match.
Set 3: Foecke led the Huskers with three early kills as Nebraska jumped out to an 11-4 lead. Albrecht and Stivrins each had a pair of kills as well. Illinois cut the deficit to five on six occasions, but the Huskers had an answer each time. At 18-12, Foecke posted her 12th kill to restore a seven-point advantage. A kill by Stivrins sparked a 4-0 run that included kills by Hunter and Holman and a solo block by Hunter, and the Huskers led 23-13. Illinois sliced into that lead with a 6-0 run to make it 23-19 Huskers. Hunter earned set point for NU with a kill, and the Huskers won 25-20 on a Foecke kill. The Big Red hit .429 in the set.
Set 4: Illinois claimed a 4-1 lead, but Foecke got a kill, and Hunter sandwiched a pair of service aces around a solo block by Foecke to put the Huskers up 5-4. After Illinois got a sideout, Foecke added another kill and then served the Huskers' third ace of the set for a 7-5 lead. The Illini answered right back with a 4-0 run to go up 9-7. NU regrouped after a timeout, and Sweet posted back-to-back kills before Stivrins and Albrecht combined for a block. Illinois committed an attacking error, and Stivrins got a kill for a 12-9 advantage on the 5-0 run. Illinois rallied to within 14-13, but the Huskers scored the next four after a couple of Illini errors, a Holman tip kill and a Maloney ace. Back-to-back kills by Foecke, one by Sweet, and a block by Foecke and Holman increased the Huskers' lead to 22-15, which made it an 8-3 Husker spurt. Holman and Albrecht smashed kills to gain match point, and the Big Red finished off the Illini, 25-17.
Up Next: Nebraska heads to Michigan for a pair of matches next week. The Huskers play at No. 10 Michigan State on Friday at 7 p.m. (CT), then travel to play Michigan on Sunday at Noon (CT).