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Hames Breaks Career Assists Record as No. 3 Huskers Sweep Illinois

October 22, 2022

Nicklin Hames broke Nebraska’s career assists record on Saturday night as the No. 3 Huskers rolled to their sixth straight sweep, taking down Illinois in Champaign.

The Cornhuskers swept the Illini 25-14, 25-16, 25-22 as Hames added 20 assists to her career total, passing Fiona Nepo to move into first-place all time. Hames already held the rally-scoring era record, but now stands alone atop the chart regardless of era. After the match, she credited her teammates for her success.

“I have great passers and then I have great hitters who adjust to a lot of balls and they make my job really easy,” Hames said on the Big Ten Network broadcast. “They want to be set and they want to be set in the big moments, making my job super easy and being able to really spread the ball around and always stress them in big moments.”

Nebraska hit .320, the ninth time this season the Huskers have hit over .300. Nebraska’s six consecutive sweeps and 19 straight set victories are both program bests since joining the Big Ten.

“It was great match,” Coach John Cook said during his post-match radio interview. “There was some great volleyball today by both teams and big swings and that was pretty high-level volleyball. Great serving by both teams and a really cool atmosphere here. It was loud. So a fun night. I feel fortunate we came out got a 3-0 win out of here. They kept punching; they didn’t pack it in.”

Whitney Lauenstein led Nebraska with 13 kills on .346 hitting, five digs, three blocks and an ace. Madi Kubik added 10 kills on .421 hitting, six digs and an ace. Bekka Allick chipped in seven kills on .462 hitting and an ace.

Hames and Kenzie Knuckles also added one ace apiece as the Huskers nearly doubled up the Illini in service points, 15 to eight, with five kills and just five errors. Illinis had 10 service errors and just three aces.

Nebraska out-dug Illinois 44 to 29 as the Huskers held the Illini to .161 hitting. Hames led the way with 13 digs while Lexi Rodriguez added nine digs and nine assists.

“The first two games, I feel like we dug everything, and so I think that really frustrated Illinois,” Cook said. “And then not only did we dig it, but we transitioned for kills. It’s hard enough to side out in this league, and then when you’re getting dug on great hits that you think are kills and you’re getting transitioned back and losing points, it’s really demoralizing.”

After nine straight sideouts to open the match, Nebraska took control of the set with an 8-2 run thanks to some hot hitting. Illinois made a push behind star outside hitter Raina Terry, who converted her first five swings into kills, and cut the lead in half at 16-13.

However, out of a timeout, Nebraska blitzed the Illini with a 9-1 run to close the set. The only point was a service error from Hames, though she also delivered an ace and forced an overpass for a kill during her time at the service line. Lauenstein and Kubik notched the last two kills to end the set.

Nebraska hit .464 behind seven kill on 10 swings from Lauenstein and five kills on seven errorless attempts from Ally Batenhorst. Illinois hit .250. The Cornhuskers won the service points battle six to two with four errors from the Illini and a pair of aces on their end.

Nebraska again took control early in the second set, using a 6-1 run to open up a 9-4 lead. The teams traded sideouts from there until Hames fed Lauenstein for her 10th assist of the night, moving her into first place in the program’s career assist list and putting the Huskers up 13-8.

Lauenstein then broke the sideout streak with an ace and Nebraska continued to roll, stretching its lead to seven a couple of times before closing it out with a 5-1 run. Lauenstein put down the set-point kill.

Nebraska hit .329 and held Illinois to .129. Allick came alive after a quiet first set with five kills on eight swings. Nebraska continued to win the service battle with two more aces and just one error while Illinois served two more errors.

Much like the second set, Nebraska took control early in the third set with a 6-1 run to take a 10-5 lead. The Huskers pushed their advantage to six a couple of times before the Illini fought back, aided by a few Nebraska miscues. Illinois pulled within two at 16-14 before a service error and a kill from Kubik.

The Illini didn’t go down easily, cutting the gap to two six more times, but Kubik ended an extended rally on match point by blasting a kill off the Illinois block.

Nebraska hit .216 in the third set while holding Illinois to .132. After seeing just six sets come her way in the first two games, Kubik got the ball 13 times and notched five kills in the third.

“They followed the game plan, they made adjustments, we fought off their tough serves and we handled the atmosphere really well,” Cook said. “It was great win.”

Nebraska has reached the midway point of conference play without a blemish, but that unbeaten record will be put to the test on Wednesday as the Huskers wrap up their road stretch at No. 5 Wisconsin.

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