CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – The No. 4 Nebraska volleyball team won its third straight sweep with a 26-24, 30-28, 25-17 win over Illinois at Huff Hall on Saturday night.
The Huskers (9-1) swept the Fighting Illini for the second night in a row, fighting off set points in the first two sets to win deuce games before taking control late in set three.
The Huskers hit .245 and held Illinois to .136 for the match. Although Illinois had two more kills (41-39) the Huskers committed 11 fewer attacking errors (14-25). Illinois had six aces but 11 service errors, while the Huskers had four aces with eight service errors. NU had a 7-4 edge in blocks in the match.
Lexi Sun once again led the Big Red with 14 kills to go with three digs and two blocks. Lauren Stivrins had 11 kills on .625 hitting with three blocks, and Kayla Caffey had eight kills and three blocks while hitting .583. The Husker middle blockers combined for 19 kills on .607 hitting for the match.
Raina Terry paced Illinois (2-8) for the second straight night with 13 kills on .320 hitting.
Set 1: Illinois got off to a strong start with an 8-5 lead as the Huskers terminated just one of their first 10 attacks. A kill by Sun and a block by Caffey and Riley Zuhn pulled NU within one, but Terry killed three consecutive rallies to make it 11-7 Fighting Illini. Illinois led by five at the media timeout, 15-10, but two Illinois attacking errors and a kill by Sun trimmed the deficit to two at 15-13. After Emily Hollowell gave Illinois a sideout, Stivrins and Caffey went to work with back-to-back kills, and an Illinois setting error followed by a Hames kill made it 17-16 NU, as the Huskers put together a 4-0 run on a Hayley Densberger serve like they did on Friday night. But the Fighting Illini answered with a 6-2 run to go back ahead 22-19. A block by Stivrins and Kubik helped the Huskers get back within one at 23-22, but Megan Cooney added a kill for set point for Illinois at 24-22. An Illinois service error made it 24-23, and Cooney attacked wide to tie the set at 24-24. Sun then produced a kill to earn set point for Nebraska, 25-24, and Stivrins finished it off after a timeout with a kill. Illinois outkilled Nebraska 17-12 and outhit the Big Red .196 to 1.79. But the Illini fell victim to five service errors in the opening set.
Set 2: Stivrins had a kill and a block with Zuhn, and the Huskers opened up a 6-2 lead to start the second set as Illinois made two attacking errors and another service error. Illinois fought back to tie the score at 9-9, but the Huskers came back with a 5-1 run to take a 14-10 lead. Stivrins and Hames had kills, and Akana served an ace. Nebraska remained ahead by four, 20-16, but Illinois charged back with three straight points and then tied the score at 21-21. Stivrins briefly put the Huskers back on top with a kill, but a service error followed by a Cooney kill put Illinois ahead 23-22. Stivrins tooled a block to tie the score at 23-23, but Kennedy Collins answered to make it 24-23 Illini. Sun kept the Huskers alive with a kill and then combined with Caffey for a block that made it 25-24 Huskers. The teams then traded eight sideouts with Caffey posting two kills to keep NU in front. Kubik terminated for a 29-28 lead, and Stivrins finally put it away at 30-28 on the Huskers’ fifth chance to win the set.
Set 3: Nebraska fell behind 5-1 but roared back with a 6-1 run keyed by two kills by Sun and one by Stivrins. Hames had a block with Caffey and served an ace as the teams were tied at 9-9. With the score tied 12-12, Caffey terminated and Knuckles served an ace to make it 14-12. Illinois scored the next two, but Stivrins posted two kills around an Illinois attacking error for a 17-14 Husker lead. The Illini cut it to 17-16, but the Huskers pulled away with kills by Sun, Kubik, Stivrins and Sun before an ace by Kubik made it 22-16. The Huskers closed out their third sweep in a row, 25-17. Nebraska held Illinois to .000 hitting the final frame.
Up Next: Nebraska hosts undefeated No. 19 Ohio State next Friday and Saturday at the Bob Devaney Sports Center. Friday’s match begins at 6 p.m. on NET, while Saturday’s contest starts at 8 p.m. on BTN. Both matches can be heard on the Huskers Sports Network.