Richey's volleyball preview: Nebraska up next

Richey's volleyball preview: Nebraska up next

No. 1 Nebraska at No. 24 Illinois, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday


No. 24 Illinois (9-4, 2-0 Big Ten)

Potential starters

P    Name    Yr.    Ht.    KEY Stat

S    Jordyn Poulter    So.    6-2    10.25 a/s

OH    Michelle Strizak    Sr.    6-1    2.59 k/s

OH    Jacqueline Quade    Fr.    6-2    3.10 k/s

OPP    Naya Crittenden    Sr.    6-2    2.37 k/s

MB    Ali Bastianelli    So.    6-3    1.83 b/s

MB    Katie Stadick    Sr.    6-3    0.93 b/s

L    Brandi Donnelly    Jr.    5-8    4.15 d/s

FYI: The Illini have two players in the top five in a different defensive Big Ten statistic. Bastianelli is tied for first with Maryland’s Ashlyn McGregor for blocks per set. Donnelly is fourth in the conference in digs per set.

No. 1 Nebraska (11-0, 2-0 Big Ten)

Potential starters

P      Name    Yr.    Ht.    KEY Stat

S    Kelly Hunter    Jr.    5-11    11.19 a/s

OH    Mikaela Foecke    So.    6-3    2.84 k/s

OH    Andie Malloy    Sr.    6-2    2.81 k/s

OPP    Kadie Rolfzen    Sr.    6-3    3.22 k/s

MB    Briana Holman    Jr.    6-1    1.22 b/s

MB    Amber Rolfzen    Sr.    6-3    1.27 b/s

L    Justine Wong-Orantes    Sr.    5-6    3.81 d/s

FYI: The Cornhuskers nearly saw their 27-match winning streak (dating back to last season) come to an end Saturday. Down 2-0 at Michigan State, they rallied to defeat the Spartans in five.


Site: Huff Hall (4,050), Champaign.

TV: Lisa Byington (play-by-play) and Liz Tortorello-Nelson (analysis) will have the call on BTN.

Radio: Dave Loane (play-by-play) and Mike Trame (analysis) will have the call on WDWS 1400-AM.

Series history: Nebraska leads 21-7-1.

Last meeting: Nebraska swept the Illini on Nov. 25, 2015, in Lincoln, Neb.

FYI: Illinois defeated the Cornhuskers twice during the 2014 season, including a rare win for a visiting team at the Devaney Center in Lincoln. Those are the only two wins for the Illini against Nebraska since 1992.

Scott Richey’s storylines


Illinois’ home match against Nebraska last season got away from the Illini in a hurry in the second set with Mikaela Foecke at the service line for the Cornhuskers. Up 17-16, Foecke served seven consecutive points, including two aces, to help Nebraska pull away. The Cornhuskers’ serve hasn’t gotten any less aggressive since. Neither has the way Illinois has approached serve-receive. “There’s no way we could stress serve-receive more than we do in practice unless it’s all we talked about the entire time,” Illinois coach Kevin Hambly said. “It’s a work in progress, and we’re just going to continue to get better. I go back and watch the Rutgers match, and we worked and we moved and got in spots. We just kind of overcooked a lot of balls and passed them over the net.”


Hambly already has outlined his thoughts on aggressive serving — and perhaps a few more service errors because of it — being what he wants from his team. But what about the Illini doing the actual serving? “We don’t want to be serving anyone just to get it in the court,” said senior defensive specialist Danielle Davis, who is tied for third on the team with Allison Palmer and Caroline Welsh with five aces. “That’s worse than missing it by a hair. At least they have to think about it, and we’re attacking them. We see serving as attacking them instead of just this is a start to a play and rely on our defense.”


The level of disappointment was high for Illinois on Saturday — even in a three-set sweep of Rutgers. It was a case of expectation level not matching reality. Expectations of the Illini coaches for their players. Expectations for the players in how they thought they could succeed against the Scarlet Knights. “We didn’t take advantage of that, and the frustration level started to get higher, and things started to fall apart,” Hambly said. Not that the Illini have lingered on that win — or the one before it against Purdue. “For us, win or loss, we’re moving on,” Hambly said. “We haven’t even talked about the Rutgers match very much. We haven’t talked about the Purdue match very much. We’re on to the next thing.”