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#9 Nebraska vs. #25 Illinois Game Thread

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Molly Houser

#9 Nebraska (16-5, B1G 10-2) vs #25 Illinois (16-7, B1G 8-4)
When: Thursday, November 4, 2021, 8:00 pm (CT)
Where: Champaign, IL
Video: BTN
Radio: Husker Sports Network - Lincoln (B107.3 FM); Omaha (AM 590); Huskers.com; Huskers App

Nebraska beat Illinois just under three weeks ago (19 days) in three sets. The Huskers beat them soundly, 25-21, 25-15, 25-19. Nebraska led in almost every statistical category. The only big area Illinois won statistically was by earning 9 blocks compare to Nebraska’s 5.

However, Illinois is playing much stronger than there were mid-October. They are spreading the offense more, for one. During the October match, the majority of the sets that went to the outside hitters.

Raina Terry took 42 swings which is just under 50% of what the total team took. Last weekend against Penn State (Illinois won in four), however, Terry took just 30% of the swings, a workload that is much more manageable for an outside hitter.

Terry balances the offensive attack now with Megan Cooney, 6’4’’ graduate student and All Big Ten Second Team selection last season. Kennedy Collins and Kyla Swanson gets sets and kills from the middle and the RS, Jessica Nunge is making a difference in the matches for Illinois as well.

When you have multiple offensive threats, the whole team gets better. This concept also applies to Nebraska, of course. We see clear evidence of the need for an effective L2, or, left side second hitter. Not only will the number of kills go up for an individual player in that position itself, but it also opens up shots for the other hitters in the front row because blockers are worrying about more attackers.

Being a hitter is not easy against Illinois, because they block very well. When hitters are working through ups or downs and try to be aggressive they are prone to make more mistakes. Some of the shots they go for are going to miss and some of the shots Illinois’ is going to make them miss with quality blocking.

As much as Husker fans are on the edge of their seat waiting for Lexi Sun, Ally Batenhorst, or Whitney Lauenstein (can I get a vote for Kenzie Knuckles?) to emerge, have a great match, and lock down the L2 position, there is a low probability that it will happen against a quality blocking team like Illinois.

University of Nebraska (16-5, B1G 10-2)

#1 Nicklin Hames 5’10’’ SR Setter - 3.26 digs per set, .35 aces per set
#2 Kenzie Knuckles 5’8’’ JR DS - 1.99 digs per set, .964 reception %, .27 aces per set
#3 Kayla Caffey 6’0’’ SR MB - 2.42 kills per set, 1.18 blocks per set
#4 Anni Evans 5’9’’ SO Setter/Serving Specialist - .70 digs per set
#6 Keonilei Akana 5’9’’ SO DS - 2.15 digs per set, .938 reception %, .29 aces per set
#7 Rylee Gray 6’4’’ FR MB
#8 Lexi Rodriguez 5’5’’ FR Libero - 4.27 digs per set, .962 reception %
#9 Kennedi Orr 6’0’’ FR Setter
#10 Madi Kubik 6’3’’ JR OH - 3.33 kills per set, .47 blocks per set, .956 reception %
#11 Lexi Sun 6’2’’ SR OH- 2.17 kills per set, .48 blocks per set, .950 reception %
#13 Whitney Lauenstein 6’2’’ FR OH - .78 kills per set, .27 blocks per set
#14 Ally Batenhorst 6’4’’ FR OH - 1.81 kills per set, .29 blocks per set, .938 reception %
#20 Kalynn Meyer 6’3’’ SO MB -1.14 blocks per set
#22 Lindsay Krause 6’4’’ FR OH - 2.53 kills per set, .81 blocks per set, .833 reception %
#25 Callie Schwarzenbach 6’5’’ SR MB - 1.16 kills per set, 1.29 blocks per set
#26 Lauren Stivrins 6’4’’ SR MB - 2.59 kills per set, .76 blocks per set

Illinois (16-7, B1G 8-4)

#1 Kennedy Collins 6’3’’ JR MB
#3 Taylor Kuper 5’8’’ SR Libero
#4 Kylie Bruder 5’11’’ GR Setter
#5 Diana Brown 6’0’’ R/JR Setter
#6 Kyla Swanson 6’4’’ JR MB from Wahoo, NE
#10 Caroline Barnes 5’11’ FR DS
#12 Raina Terry 6’3’’ SO OH
#14 Jessica Nunge 6’2’’ JR RS
#15 Megan Cooney 6’4’’ GR OH