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A Sellout in Illinois as #3 Nebraska Volleyball Comes to Town

Huskers look to extend their winning streak to 11

Jordan Opp

#3 Nebraska (17-1, B1G 9-0) vs Illinois (9-10, B1G 4-5)
When: Saturday, October 22 2022, 6 pm (CT)
Where: Champaign, IL
Video: BTN
Radio: Husker Radio Network

#3 Nebraska (16-1, B1G 8-0)

#1 Nicklin Hames 5’10’’ SR Setter
#2 Kenzie Knuckles 5’8’’ SR DS/L
#4 Anni Evans 5’9’’ JR Setter
#5 Bekka Allick 6’4’’ FR MB
#7 Maisie Boesiger 5’6’’ FR DS/L
#8 Lexi Rodriguez 5’5’’ SO DS/L
#9 Kennedi Orr 6’0’’ SO Setter
#10 Madi Kubik 6’3’’ SR OH
#13 Whitney Lauenstein 6’2’’ SO OH
#14 Ally Batenhorst 6’5’’ SO OH
#22 Lindsay Krause 6’4’’ SO OH
#23 Kaitlyn Hord 6’4’’ SR MB
#33 Hayden Kubik 6’2’’ FR OH
#44 Maggie Mendelson 6’5’’ FR MB

Illinois (9-10, B1G 4-5)

#1 Kennedy Collins 6’3’’ MB
#2 Kylee Hinton 6’2’’ MB
#5 Diana Brown 6’0’’ Setter
#10 Kayla Burbage 6’4’’ OH
#10 Caroline Barnes 5’11’’ Libero
#12 Raina Terry 6’3’’ OH
#14 Jessica Nunge 6’2’’ OH

Huff Hall in Champaign, IL doesn’t always sellout, but when #3 Nebraska comes to town, it is a hot ticket. Nebraska volleyball is playing well. They have hit a streak as a team and are executing the offense and defense to another level compared to where they were earlier in the season. They are able to shut teams down with their defense and convert their defense into offense. They have won 10 straight matches and the last five as 3-0 victories.

As hot as Nebraska is at the moment, Illinois is their equal and opposite. They are not playing well, not looking strong at this point in the season. At the start of the B1G season they were 5-5 and receiving votes for the top 25 in the NCAA. Coming into tonight, the Illini have lost two in a row, and both in three straight sets. They are now 4-5 in the B1G, 9-10 overall, and no longer receiving votes for the top 25.

Below .500 is not somewhere Illinois volleyball is accustomed to being. They are normally a top 25 team. This team is outside the top 25 and in danger of not qualifying for the NCAA tournament (must be above .500 to qualify).

This may make the Illini hungry for a win but they have a low probability of success against the strong Husker defense and offense that has hit another gear. Opposing hitters face a unique challenge against Nebraska.

With the 6-2 offense that Nebraska runs, opposing hitters consistently have four hands pressed across the net which reduces the number and angle of shots they can hit plus four players behind that block that are well positioned, quick to react and ready to run balls down.

The block says “we aren’t letting that ball come across” The floor defense says “we won’t let that ball hit the ground”. Both of those mindsets puts the pressure to do something great strongly on the shoulders of the opposing hitter. If she has to do something great each time to terminate the ball against Nebraska, she is bound to make mistakes. Oh, defense is a beautiful thing.

Illinois has three main hitters that carry the offensive load for the team. Raina Terry and Jessica Nunge both average over three kills per set on the outside. Kennedy Collins is in the middle and contributes both blocking and hitting.

Diana Brown runs the offense as a redshirt senior setter. It is not a very fast nor complex offense so Nebraska’s block needs to watch Brown to see where the set goes and make their block moves accordingly just as Coach Reyes talks about here:

When hitters are presented with the suffocating Nebraska defense, they start to get created and also start to make errors.

Watch on BTN as Nebraska takes on Illinois for the first time this season at 6 pm CST.