Live from Huff: Nebraska 3, Illinois 0

Live from Huff: Nebraska 3, Illinois 0

Final: Nebraska 3, Illinois 0.

Nebraska wins the third set to take the match 25-20, 25-14, 25-22.

Check back later on a full report on the match.

***

Set 2: Nebraska 25, Illinois 14

Hero: Kelsey Robinson.

The transfer from Tennessee had four kills in eight swings and four digs in Set 2 for Nebraska.

Goat: Illini hitters.
Illinois made nine hitting errors in 34 swings and hit .088 in the Set 2 blowout.

What I'm thinking:

-- Illini fans who've been wondering whether highly-regarded freshman Michelle Strizak will be redshirted don't have to speculate any longer. The outside hitter from Cincinnati made her college debut in the second set. With Illinois trailing 9-4, Kevin Hambly put Strizak on the court in a bid to inject some life into the UI attack. So far she has two kills and two errors in six swings, a .000 attack percentage.

-- Glad I wore the lightest-weight shirt in my closet. It is steamy in here!

-- What a difference between Sets 1 and 2 for Illinois. Didn't look at all like the same team. Has to be discouraging for everyone involved. We'll see whether they can deliver a counter-punch in Set 3.

-- Nebraska is dominating at the net. Leads in blocks for the match 8-2.

Set 1: Nebraska 25, Illinois 20

Hero: Kadie Rolfzen
The Nebraska freshman outside hitter is leading a balanced attack, with five kills in nine swings and a .444 hitting percentage.


Goat:  Amber Rolfzen
Kadie's twin is having a rough time on the attack. One kill and two errors in nine swings for a minus-.111 hitting percentage.

What I'm thinking:

-- Very few empty seats; mostly in the upper corners of each balcony. Should be one of the bigger turnouts in Huff Hall volleyball history.

-- Really close set until Nebraska broke away at the end. There were nine ties and two lead changes.

-- Thought it was puzzling that Kevin Hambly didn't use his second and last timeout of the first set until his team was behind 24-19. Thought he'd use it when Nebraska built a 21-17 lead. Or at 22-18. Or at 23-19.

****

Four minutes to lineup introductions

Fans keep streaming in. Wouldn't be surprised if more than 3,000 show up. That would be more than 10,000 for two Illini home matches this weekend.

Nebraska has fans here. There was a logjam for a while in one of the balcony areas as a group of Huskers fans tried to get to their seats. In several ways, Huff Hall is not very fan-friendly, especially when compared to last night's match at State Farm Center.

Same goes for the cramped quarters for the media. Long legs (like mine) and this seating area don't mix.

***

Welcome to our live report from Huff Hall on the Illini's volleyball match against Nebraska.

After sweeping Iowa Friday night at State Farm Center in front of 7,061 fans -- the second largest home crowd in program history -- No. 24 Illinois will try to win its second match in a row. We note that because the Illini have won consecutive matches only once this season, which is reflected in their 5-6 record.

No. 12 Nebraska enters this -- the second match of the Big Ten race for both teams -- with an 8-2 record after defeating Northwestern in four sets Friday night at Evanston. In that match, Tennessee transfer Kelsey Robinson recorded her sixth double-double of the season (25 kills, 12
digs) for the Cornhuskers. The former News-Gazette All-Stater from Wheaton St. Francis hit .438 in 48 swings.

Robinson is one of 10 newcomers this season to a vastly revamped Nebraska roster. Among the new faces are highly touted freshman twins Kadie and Amber Rolfzen. Against Northwestern, Kadie also produced a double-double (19 kills, 10 digs) while hitting .378.

The Cornhuskers are the eighth ranked opponent for the Illini in 12 games so far this season. Illinois enters 3-4 against Top 25 foes.
After halting a four-match losing streak Friday night, the Illini will try to end a six-match skid in their series with Nebraska. Illinois last defeated the Cornhuskers on Dec. 10, 1992, in an NCAA regional semifinal at Huff. The Illini are 5-17-1 all-time against Nebraska, and that .227 winning percentage is Illinois' lowest against any Big Ten opponent. ranks second only to their .303 tally in a three-set sweep at Iowa State on Sept. 8.

In my opinion, this stacks up as a highly revealing match for Illinois. It played well against a Hawkeyes team expected to finish in the lower third of the Big Ten standings. Now, the Illini will try to carry that momentum over to today against an opponent far superior to Iowa. Illinois has played well at times against ranked opponents, even in defeat. Kevin Hambly's team took then-No. 2 Texas to five sets before losing. And except for one set, it was highly competitive with current No. 2 Washington.

So, which Illini team will show up today? The one that has swept ranked Florida State and Iowa State teams -- and went toe-to-toe with Texas and Washington -- or the one that was dominated by then No. 15 North Carolina in three sets and lost in four to unranked Duke?

Illini fans -- and a Big Ten Network audience -- are waiting to learn the answer.
So are we, and we'll update this live report after each set, so be sure to check back in.

-- Jeff Huth

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