Husker volleyball rallies to beat No. 20 Illinois in five sets

From: Nebraska Athletics

The No. 3 Nebraska volleyball team battled back from down 2-1 on the road at No. 20 Illinois to win its Big Ten opener, 3-2 (25-22, 25-27, 26-28, 25-22, 15-10), on Friday night at Huff Hall. 

Jazz Sweet had a career-high 17 kills on .333 hitting to lead the Huskers (9-1, 1-0 Big Ten). Lexi Sun added 11 kills and 11 digs with five blocks, and Lauren Stivrins had 11 kills and five blocks. Madi Kubik also hit double-figures with 11 kills to go with seven digs. 

Callie Schwarzenbach had a season-best day for the Huskers with eight kills on .583 hitting and a season-high eight blocks. Capri Davis also had eight kills. The Huskers out-blocked Illinois, 13.0 to 9.0. Nebraska had a .251 to .174 hitting advantage and a 73-61 edge in digs. 

Nicklin Hames had a season-best 58 assists and 11 digs. Kenzie Knuckles had a match-high 21 digs. 

Jacqueline Quade led Illinois with 18 kills but on only .143 hitting. Ashlyn Fleming and Megan Cooney each had 14 kills for the Illini (5-5, 0-1 Big Ten). 

The Huskers will travel to Evanston, Illinois to play Northwestern on Saturday at 7 p.m. 

Set 1: The Huskers held a 10-6 lead after three early kills by Kubik. Illinois fought back to take a 17-16 lead after a 4-0 spurt. The Huskers committed five service errors and were aced three times to that point of the first set. NU responded with four straight points, sparked by kills by Sun and Schwarzenbach and a block by that duo. After Illinois cut it to 20-19, Sun and Schwarzenbach produced yet another block to make it 21-19 Huskers. Sweet terminated a kill to keep NU in front, 23-21, and a quick reflex dig by Hames led to a Capri Davis kill for set point at 24-21. The Illini committed an attacking error to give the Huskers the set, 25-22. NU hit .321 and held Illinois to -.030 hitting. Sun and Schwarzenbach each had three blocks for the Big Red in the opening frame. 

Set 2: Illinois used a 4-1 run to take a 7-5 lead. The Illini pushed the lead to three, 12-9, after a Husker hitting error. Sweet connected on back-to-back kills for the Huskers to pull NU within 12-11, but a service error kept Illinois in the lead. Illinois went back up by three, 14-11, when Sweet terminated again and Stivrins and Hames combined for a block to cut it to 14-13. But once again, Illinois built its lead back up, this time to five at 18-13 after a pair of Husker hitting errors. Back-to-back kills by Stivrins and an Illinois hitting error pulled the Huskers back within 18-16. Sun and Sweet added kills on three straight rallies to tie the score at 20-20. Quade put Illinois back in front with a kill, but Sun answered with another big swing for the Huskers. The Illini the hit wide to put NU on top, 22-21, The Huskers won a challenge that ruled a shot by Sweet did in fact touch an Illinois player, and that kill but NU back up 23-22. Sun and Sweet blocked an attack for set point at 24-23, but Illinois scored the next two points to earn set point at 25-24. The Illini won 27-25 to even the match.  

Set 3: Schwarzenbach blasted a couple kills to get the Huskers in front early, and NU went up 5-2 on a block by Hames and Stivrins. Stivrins and Sun put kills away for a 9-4 lead, but Illinois trimmed the lead to two, 11-9, to force a Husker timeout. The Illini drew even at 15-15 on a tip kill by Quade, but Sun terminated an out-of-system ball from Megan Miller to make it 16-15 Huskers. But Illinois responded with a 7-2 run to go up 22-18. The Huskers chipped away and a kill by Stivrins brought them within one, 23-22. Nebraska tied the set at 23-23 after Illinois hit wide, but Cooney recorded a kill for set point for the Illini. Davis answered for the Big Red to make it 24-24. The teams traded sideouts for the next five rallies, and the Illini won 28-26 with a block. 

Set 4: The Huskers played from behind early, but Hayley Densberger subbed in to play in the back row for the Huskers, and an ace by Miller and a kill by Kubik helped the Huskers to an 8-6 lead. A block by Hames and Schwarzenbach put NU up 11-8, and Illinois hit long to make it 12-8. Illinois scored the next three to cut the lead to one, 12-11. A block by Schwarzenbach and Sweet helped the Huskers back to a three-point edge, 14-11, but the Illini came back with a 3-0 run to tie the set. Sweet blasted back-to-back kills, and Kubik tacked on another one to make it 18-15 Huskers. A slew of Illinois errors put the Huskers ahead 21-17, but Illinois then scored three in a row to cut it to 21-20. Davis sided out for the Huskers, and Schwarzenbach and Sweet earned set point for the Huskers with a block that made it 24-22. Densberger then served an ace to win the set, 25-22. 

Set 5: Schwarzenbach opened the set with a kill off an overpass, and an ace by Knuckles had the Huskers up 3-0. Back-to-back roll shots by Sun pushed the lead to four at 7-3. Illinois got back within one, 8-7, forcing a Husker timeout. Sweet’s 17th kill kept NU in front, and Kubik tooled a block to make it 10-7 Huskers. Sweet and Schwarzenbach then stuffed an Illinois attack, and Kubik posted kills on consecutive rallies for a 13-8 lead. Stivrins put the match away at 15-10 with her 11th kill.