The No. 9 Nebraska volleyball team got back on track Thursday night, sweeping No. 25 Illinois 3-0 (25-20, 25-20, 25-21) at Huff Hall. With the road victory, the Huskers improve to 17-5 (11-2 Big Ten) while stopping UI’s four-match win streak and drop them to 16-8 (8-5).
Madi Kubik and Lexi Sun finished with an identical 11 kills to lead Nebraska offensively. Sun returned to the starting lineup for one of her best performances of the season, hitting .303 with just one attack error while adding four digs and two blocks. Kubik hit at a .250 clip and chipped in eight digs.
With her first assist of the night, Nicklin Hames set Nebraska’s rally-scoring era record for career assists and now sits at 4,160, which passed Kelly Hunter’s 4,125 from 2013-17. Hames also ranks second all-time behind Fiona Nepo (4,824 from 1995-98). The senior collected her 15th double-double of the season — and seventh straight — on 35 assists and 10 digs with three blocks.
Lauren Stivrins chipped in seven kills, a team-high four blocks and two service aces. Kayla Caffey also had eight kills and a block.
Defensively, Keonilei Akana had a season-high 15 digs to lead the Huskers, and Lexi Rodriguez tallied 14 more.
As a team, Nebraska had the advantage in attack percentage (.206 to .182), kills (42-39), assists (42-34), aces (6-2) and digs (66-56). The Illini outblocked NU 7-6.
Illinois was led by a match-high 12 kills from Raina Terry. Megan Cooney had nine kills with 11 digs, and Taylor Kuper registered a match-high 18 digs.
The Huskers were quick on the draw in the opening set, leading 6-2 to start. They stretched it to 10-4 on two Illini errors and an Akana ace, then 15-6 for their largest lead. Illinois drew within two with the help of two late Cooney kills up to 23-20, but Krause and Caffey each terminated to seal it for NU, 25-20.
NU hit .278 and had three kills apiece from Caffey, Kubik and Krause.
The Illini went up 5-1 to start set two, but NU got within two at 7-5 on a Stivrins/Sun block. The Huskers trimmed it to two again at 16-14 on back-to-back kills from Kubik and Sun coupled with a UI attack error.
Sun carried NU to its first lead of the set with three kills powering a 4-0 run, and Illinois called for a timeout down 19-18. Sun punched another kill, and Kubik and Caffey combined for three more to put the Huskers in control at 23-19. They closed the set on a 6-1 run, with a solo stop by Stivrins shutting it down at 25-20.
Sun had five kills on 10 swings with no errors, and Kubik added five more kills in the set.
Down early, the Huskers rallied to tie it at 11-11 on a Sun kill. Illinois went back out to a 19-15 advantage, but a 6-0 run — including a Stivrins ace for the go-ahead point — flipped the script and put NU ahead 23-20. Sun and Caffey each put down a kill to finish it off, 25-21.
Noting Tonight’s Match
-Tonight’s win snapped Nebraska’s two-match losing skid.
-Nebraska leads the all-time series with Illinois 31-8-1, including 18-3 in the John Cook era.
-The Huskers have won six straight in the series dating back to 2018.
-Tonight was NU’s fourth consecutive sweep of Illinois.
-NU has a 12-5 advantage over Illinois on the road and have won seven straight in Champaign since 2015.
-Lexi Sun returned to the starting lineup for the first time since Sept. 18.
Nebraska continues on to No. 7 Ohio State on Saturday, Nov. 6