Live from Huff Hall: Nebraska 3, Illinois 0
No. 4 Nebraska trailed only once in Set 3 in completing a sweep of No. 25 Illinois 25-16, 25-23, 25-16.
It was the fifth team this season the Illini (10-10, 4-6 Big Ten) lost in straight sets.
Illinois took a 6-5 lead in Set 3 and battled back and forth with Nebraska before the Cornhuskers gradually pulled away.
Morgan Broekhuis led a balanced Nebraska attack, which hit .310., with 10 kills.
Jocelynn Birks had a match-high 13 kills but committed 11 errors for Illinois. The Illini, who finished with 24 hitting errors, had a .147 attack percentage.
Nebraska (17-2, 9-1 Big Ten) won its ninth match in a row.
Illinois was unable to hold off a Nebraska comeback and lost Set 2 25-23 to fall behind two sets to none.
The Illini built several five-point leads, the last at 13-8, and were still ahead 15-11 when the Cornhuskers mounted their rally.
From that point, Nebraska scored eight of the next 10 points to overtake Illinois 19-17. Although the Illini never overtook the Cornhuskers, they did tie it a 19 and were within 23-22 before Nebraska scored two of the final three points to clinch the set.
Gina Mancuso and Morgan Broekhuis led the Cornhusker attack in Set 2 with five and four kills, respectively. Mancuso had a match-high nine kills entering Set 3 and Broekhuis has seven.
Jocelyn Birks led Illinois in Set 2 with six kills but also had four errors in 16 swings.
For the match, Nebraska is hitting .271 to Illinois' .173.
No. 25 Illinois struggled on the attack and lost Set 1 to Nebraska 25-16. The Illini hit .133 and committed seven errors in 45 swings.
The No. 4 Cornhuskers countered with a .286 hitting percentage.
Ali Stark led the Illini with four kills but also was guilty of three errors and hit .083 in 12 swings. Fellow outside hitter Jocelynn Birks added three kills while hitting .067 in 15 attempts.
Gina Mancuso paced Nebraska with four kills in 11 swings (.273). Morgan Broekhuis scored five points for the Cornhuskers on three kills and two service aces.
The Illini trailed by as many as 11 points.'
Big crowd, as expected. The Illini cheerleaders are here for the first time this season.
Welcome to our live report from Huff Hall on today's volleyball match between No. 25 Illinois and No. 4 Nebraska.
This is the Cornhuskers' first trip to Huff as a Big Ten Conference member. Last season, Nebraska's first in the league, Illnois traveled to Lincoln, Neb., and lost in four sets. It was the then-No. 1 Illini's first defeat of the season after opening 20-0.
If you can't make it Huff, the match is being nationally televised by ESPN2, with Sam Gore and volleyball legend Karch Kiraly behind the microphones (and on the screen occasionally). In the Champaign-Urbana, you also can listen to the match on WDWS 1400-AM, with Dave Loane on play by play and Mike Trame as the analyst.
Illinois enters, 10-9, including 4-5 in the Big Ten, but has been playing better lately. The Illini are 2-0 since coach Kevin Hambly switched to freshman Alexis Viliunas as his starting setter. If the Illini win today, they will match their longest winning streak of the season. Illinois won three rin a row en route to the title of the Texas Invitational in mid-September.
Illinois faces a tall task today, but it has shown it's capable of competing toe-to-toe with the best teams in the country. Exhibit A would be the five-set victory at then-No. 6 Texas. The Illini also extended No. 1 Penn State to five sets here on Oct. 6, a win Illinois let slip from its grasp in the fifth set after failing to capitalize on four match-point opportunities. A brutal finish.
The Cornhuskers are 16-2 overall, 8-1 in the Big Ten and enter with an eight-match winning streak., Nebraska's lone league loss was at Penn State in its conference opener.
The Cornhuskers can be a handful on both sides of the net. They're hitting .309, with all of the hitters in their regular rotation hitting above .250. And they're holding opponents to a .182 hitting percentage. By comparison, Illinois is hitting .263 and has an opponent hitting percentage of .246. The latter figures explains much about why the Illini's record is what it is.
If a big crowd shows up, as expected, there could be some frustrated fans entering Huff Hall. Do to recent heavy rains in Champaign-Urbana, the grass field south of Huff Hall that typically is available for parking has been closed off and is unavailable. Even on a Sunday, parking can be tight in this area of campus.
We'll update this report after each set, so be sure to check back. At least, we hope to update. Currently, there is no power in the press area and I am on battery power with my laptop. They're working on the problem, and hopefully it gets fixed before the battery lives out. We've got our fingers crossed.