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Nebraska Volleyball: Illinois Preview

The Illini are much more talented than their record shows

Jon Johnston

Illinois should be good. Illinois is good. They are very good, in fact, but they aren’t winning much. Illinois is 2-6 with two wins over Iowa in the first weekend of the season and losses to #1 Wisconsin, #10 Penn State and #19 Ohio State. They missed playing Northwestern and Michigan State due to covid. Dang! Illinois picked the wrong weekends to have matches postponed!! Those were competitive matches for them that they could have expected to win.

Nebraska is traveling TO Illinois this weekend. That fact is important in Coach’s playbook so we need to mention it here. The team has to fly, stay in hotels and eat food that isn’t their own so match travel impacts them.

Both teams were inactive last weekend as their opponent shut down due to positive COVID-19. There will be some rust and excitement to work through.

Illinois has a stud outside hitter in #15 Megan Cooney. She is a 6’4’’ senior. She hits the ball a ton but can also produce shots in the corner or, just hit it where the defense is not. She is averaging 3.7 kills per set. Cooney gets her kills.

Important to know: The Illini run a 6-2 offense. That means one of their 2 setters are always in the backrow and three hitters are always in the front row (6 hitters - 2 setters). There are different characteristics to each type of offense that require some specific defensive preparation.

A 6-2 means the middle won’t run behind the setter for a slide because there is another hitter there. The middle will, therefore, hit more frequently in front of the setter which creates a mismatch advantage for the hitter. Also, the right side block should be bigger because an attacker (usually taller) is subbing in for a setter.

The setter is always backrow in a 6-2, so one way to disrupt this offense is to tip to the right back position where the setter is playing defense. This forces the setter to play the first ball which then forces the libero to “set” the second ball which, as the opponent, you hope creates a slower and more predictable offense because the libero, theoretically, isn’t quite the facilitator that the setter is.

Also important to know: Illinois has the most aces per set in the B1G. Nebraska needs to bring their best passing game to Champaign. In a tough serving league, having the most aces sure means something. Junior, Libero, Taylor Kuper, Freshman outside hitter Raina Terry and Cooney are their best servers.

The Huskers and Fighting Illini will battle on Friday at 8 p.m. The teams will meet again on Saturday at 6 p.m. Friday’s match will be televised nationally on BTN and streamed on the FoxSports platform. Saturday’s match will be streamed online with a BTN+ subscription. Husker Sports Network will broadcast all the Husker action on HSN radio affiliates.