Huskers Roll to Sweep at Illinois

The third-ranked Nebraska volleyball team continued to roll with its sixth Big Ten sweep in a row – a 25-14, 25-16, 25-22 win at Illinois in front of a sold-out crowd of 4,152 at Huff Hall on Saturday night.  The Huskers (18-1, 10-0 Big Ten) have swept six Big Ten matches in a row for the first time since joining the conference in 2011. Overall, the Huskers have won 11 matches in a row, their longest win streak since 2018.

Nebraska was once again balanced offensively with five players posting at least five kills, led by Whitney Lauenstein’s 13 kills on .346 hitting. As a team, Nebraska hit .320 and limited Illinois to .161.  Madi Kubik had 10 kills on .421 hitting, and Bekka Allick followed up her career-best performance on Wednesday at Purdue with seven kills on .462 hitting. Ally Batenhorst had five kills and hit .286, and Lindsay Krause finished with five kills.  Nicklin Hames had 20 assists and 13 digs. Hames became Nebraska’s school-record holder for career assists, passing Fiona Nepo’s mark of 4,824, set from 1995-98. Hames now has 4,835 career assists at Nebraska.

The Huskers had a 44-30 advantage in kills and served five aces to three for Illinois, and NU committed five fewer service errors. Blocks were even at 6-6 with Kaitlyn Hord leading the way with four and Lauenstein adding three.  Nebraska outdug Illinois, 44-29. Lexi Rodriguez posted nine assists and nine digs. Anni Evans added six assists and four digs, and Kenzie Knuckles had four digs.  Illinois (9-11, 4-6 Big Ten) was led by 13 kills by Raina Terry.

Set 1: Nebraska gained separation from a 4-4 tie with a block by Hord and Krause and kills by Lauenstein and Batenhorst to go up 7-4. Batenhorst’s third kill of the set and a block by Lauenstein and Hord had the Huskers ahead 10-5. Nebraska led 16-10 before Illinois scored three points in a row to get within three at 16-13. But after a timeout, Illinois served into the net and Lauenstein connected on her fourth kill before an ace by Hames and two kills by Batenhorst and two by Lauenstein made it 23-13 Huskers after a 7-0 run. Lauenstein and Kubik finished out the 25-14 win with kills. Lauenstein and Batenhorst combined for 12 kills on .647 hitting.

Set 2: The Huskers sprinted out to a 9-4 lead after four kills by Allick, two by Krause and a solo block by Krause. The Huskers went up 13-8 on a kill by Lauenstein, which happened to be Hames’ 10th assist of the match and the 4,825th assist of her career, making her the new school-record holder. Lauenstein followed up with an ace serve and and Krause tallied a kill before an ace by Kubik made it 16-10 Big Red. Lauenstein tacked on three more kills, and Allick and Kubik each had one as NU won 25-16.

Set 3: Nebraska set out to finish off the sweep with kills by Lauenstein, Allick and Hames giving NU an 8-4 lead. Krause added a pair of kills around one from Allick as the Big Red increased the lead to six at 13-7. Illinois trimmed a 14-8 deficit to 14-12, but back-to-back kills by Kubik restored a 16-12 edge. The Illini fought back to get within two again at 22-20, but Kubik terminated for set point at 24-21 and posted the final kill to win 25-22.

Up Next: The Huskers begin the second half of the Big Ten slate at No. 5 Wisconsin on Wednesday. The rematch of the 2021 NCAA Championship will begin at 8 p.m. (CT).