After a week off, Nebraska (8-1) was back in the swing of things—literally—in its win over Illinois (2-7). The Huskers swept the Illini, 25-23, 25-15, 25-22.
It took about a half of a set for Nebraska to really get going, but that wasn’t much of a surprise for Coach John Cook. Nebraska last played a match two weeks ago against No. 5 Minnesota. Last weekend’s matches against No. 1 Wisconsin were postponed due COVID-19 concerns for the Badgers.
“It’s one of those deals where we have to burn off that adrenaline,” Cook said post-game. “Remember, we haven’t played in two weeks so just imagine how much adrenaline they had going. Once we burned off the adrenaline a little bit, we settled down and started playing and being smart about how we were attacking.”
Lexi Sun shined for Nebraska on Friday, tying her season high in kills. She ended her night with 17 kills on .342 hitting and three blocks. Cook was pleased with the outside hitters, saying “a lot goes through” players like Sun. Madi Kubik too, who ended the night with nine kills and a team-high 11 digs.
Seeing the outsides play so well?
“That’s good to see,” Cook said.
As for the middles, Cook thought the Huskers got hurt early on defense by Illinois, but quickly made adjustments. The Illini middles didn’t have as many kills after game one, which was what Cook wanted to see. On the offensive side of things, Lauren Stivrins recorded 10 kills on .471 hitting, while Kayla Caffey added seven kills on .636 hitting. Cook also called out Keonilei Akana, saying she “really elevated” the team with her digs and serving.
The Huskers hit .290 as a team.
Setter Nicklin Hames also shined on Friday, joining an exclusive Nebraska volleyball club on her sixth assist of the night.
#1 has officially entered the 3K assist chat.
— Husker Volleyball (@Huskervball) March 6, 2021
She joins Sydney Anderson, Lauren West and Kelly Hunter to hit the 3,000 career-assists mark.
While Nebraska swept Illinois, it wasn’t an easy win for the Huskers by any means. At one point, Illinois led Nebraska 15-12 in the first set. Cook noted that the Huskers did a nice job of adjusting at the end of game one to get the win, brought that momentum into game two but felt game three became a battle once again. The Illini did lead 20-19 late in the third set, but the Huskers were able to adjust to get the win.
“Illinois is well coached and does a nice job,” Cook said.
That includes switching things up on the Huskers, like moving to a 5-1 rotation which Nebraska hadn’t prepared for.
“[It was a] good effort by the Huskers. Really good effort by Illinois,” Cook said. “They went to a 5-1 which I think makes them a better team. We hadn’t prepared for that . . . but we made some adjustments and it was a good win.”
With the adrenaline under control and a win under their belts, the Huskers will now head back to the hotel, get some food, stretch and get to bed. Cook said they’ll get up tomorrow and go through their game day routine, testing, practice and make the necessary adjustments.
Nebraska and Illinois meet again on Saturday at 6 p.m. CT. The game will be broadcast on BTN+.
Erin is the Deputy Editor and Digital Marketing Strategist for Hail Varsity. She has covered Nebraska athletics since 2012, which has included stops at Bleacher Report, Cox Media Group’s Land of 10, and even Hail Varsity (previously from 2012-2017). She has also been featured on the Big Ten Network, NET’s Big Red Wrap-Up, and a varsity of radio shows nationwide. When not covering the Huskers, Erin is probably at Chipotle.