VB: Huskers hit past Illini in four to run Big Ten record to 9-1

Photo by Pat Radigan

Husker Kenzie Maloney (11) had late service runs in each of the three sets Nebraska won against Illinois.

3

1

25-19, 24-26, 25-20, 25-17


Husker Leaders

Kills

Foecke – 17


Blocks

Holman – 1.5
Stivrins – 1.5


Digs

Maloney – 17


Attn: 8,256


Story by Pat Radigan

Huskers offensive balance too much for Illini to handle

The Nebraska volleyball team treated former assistant coach Chris Tamas to a rough return to Devaney, when the Huskers dispatched Tamas’ Illini squad in four sets to stay atop the Big Ten standings at the halfway point of the conference slate.

Mikaela Foecke rattled off a match-high 17 kills and was one of four Husker hitters in double figures as NU posted a .314 mark as a squad in the four-set win. That meant, despite Illinois’ Ali Bastianelli hitting .765 with 13 kills, that there was little the Illini could do to keep up with Nebraska’s hitting and ability to run points from the service line in Saturday night’s win.

Foecke’s 17 kills came on 51 swings, and her ability to shoulder the majority of the swings allowed for the other Husker hitters to have an efficient night. Annika Albrecht added 15 kills, hit .294 and finished with a double-double thanks to 14 digs. Freshman Jazz Sweet added 11 kills from the right side, at a .526 pace, while fellow frosh Lauren Stivrins fell a kill shy of double digits and hit .467 in the process.

The difference in the match, though, came in Nebraska’s ability to keep Illinois in check with aggressive serving. Stringing together small runs has become a calling card for this Husker squad, and Saturday night’s win was no difference.

In the three sets Nebraska won, the blueprint was startlingly similar. Setter Kelly Hunter was the second server in each set, and put together runs of 6-0 in the first set, 3-0 in the third and a 4-0 spurt in the fourth set to help the Huskers get the early edge in each frame.

Libero Kenzie Maloney was also a key contributor at the line, despite the fact Illinois was able to side out on Maloney’s first service opportunity in all four sets. But she made up for it. Maloney keyed a 5-0 run in the first set, which included an ace to make it 18-13, and was at the line for a pair of 4-0 runs late in the third and fourth sets to help the Huskers put away the Illini.

In the second set, Illinois was able to get a first-ball side out on each of Maloney’s trips to the line, and that allowed the visitors to sneak out a 26-24 win.

Senior Sydney Townsend and freshman Hayley Densberger also had key moments at the service line, powering Nebraska to a pair of 5-0 runs in the middle of each set to open up the lead. Townsend stepped up to stretch a two-point lead to an 11-4 margin, while Densberger used her service run to put Nebraska up 12-9 after falling behind early in the fourth.

Hunter’s final run at the line made it 22-15 in the final set, and proved to be the final blow required to knock out the Illini in four.

“If you want to play, you’ve got to be able to serve. “We work really hard at it, and that was a big difference tonight in the match, was our ability to stretch them a little bit.”

Due to that serving, Illinois sided out at a rate of 50 percent in the set one loss, 58 percent in set three and fell to 40 percent as Nebraska ran away with the fourth set. In set two, the Illini upped their mark to 72 percent, and held NU to 68 percent.

At the halfway mark in the Big Ten season, Nebraska is now 9-1 in conference play, and stays tied with Penn State for the top spot. Next for Nebraska is a trip to No. 10 Michigan State, who is tied for third at 8-2 in Big Ten play.

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