NU Vball: Huskers Travel to Northwestern, Illinois

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Huskers Travel to Northwestern, Illinois

The No. 3 Nebraska volleyball team hits the road for two Big Ten matches this weekend in Illinois. The Huskers play at Northwestern at 7 p.m. on Friday and at No. 16 Illinois on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Friday’s match will be streamed online through BTN Plus ($). Saturday’s match will be televised on BTN and streamed online at BTN2GO.com. John Baylor and Diane Mendenhall will have the radio call on Husker Sports Network (107.3 FM in Lincoln and 105.9 FM in Omaha). A free live audio stream and live stats are available at Huskers.com.

Nebraska (14-2, 5-1 Big Ten) will be playing its second of four Friday-Saturday Big Ten weekends this season. The first one resulted in a split at Penn State and Ohio State. The Huskers have their highest ranking (No. 3) since the 2012 season and are currently second in the NCAA RPI. Nebraska is tied with Ohio State and Minnesota for second in the Big Ten standings, behind the only unbeaten team, Purdue.

Northwestern (11-6, 3-3 Big Ten) is coming off a 3-2 upset win over then-No. 3 Penn State last Saturday in Evanston. The Wildcats won 25-18, 23-25, 26-24, 17-25, 15-12, which snapped a steak of three straight losses by sweep. Northwestern has only played four home matches this season and is 3-1, the only loss to Ohio State.

Illinois (11-6, 2-4 Big Ten) hosts Iowa on Friday before facing the Huskers on Saturday. The Fighting Illini have lost four straight Big Ten matches to Wisconsin, Minnesota, Penn State and Ohio State entering the week. Illinois beat Nebraska twice last year and has four starters and its libero back, as well as the nation’s No. 1 setter recruit for 2015, Jordyn Poulter. All six of their losses are to teams ranked in the top 15.

About the Huskers

• Nebraska leads the Big Ten with 16.03 digs per set and ranks 50th in the nation.

• Nebraska is averaging 2.79 blocks per set in Big Ten play to rank second behind Minnesota’s 2.81. The Huskers are holding Big Ten opponents to .173 hitting, also second behind Minnesota.

• The Huskers are hitting .266 on the season to rank third in the Big Ten and 23rd nationally.

• Nebraska averages 14.25 kills per set, which ranks third in the conference and 17th in the nation.

• Libero Justine Wong-Orantes averages a team-best 4.33 digs per set and has played every set in 61 consecutive matches dating back to her freshman season in 2013. Wong-Orantes had a career-high 30 digs to lead the Husker comeback effort at No. 1 Penn State on Oct. 2. She was named the espnW National Player of the Week and Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Week following that performance.

• Two-time All-American Kadie Rolfzen is putting up a team-best 3.16 kills per set along with 2.64 digs per set. The junior has 32 career double-doubles and was the B1G Co-Defensive Player of the Week on Sept. 21.

• Middle blocker Amber Rolfzen leads the team with 71 blocks. Her 1.54 blocks per set is first in the Big Ten and ninth nationally. Her block average is the best by a Husker since Melissa Elmer’s school-record 2.17 in 2005. Rolfzen is hitting a team-best .306.

• Setter Kelly Hunter guides the Husker attack with 11.27 assists per set. The sophomore had a career-high 57 assists and nine kills in the comeback win against Oregon on Sept. 5. Hunter was named the B1G Setter of the Week on Aug. 31 and Nebraska Invitational MVP on opening weekend. Hunter has notched 50 or more assists four times this season.

• True freshman outside hitter Mikaela Foecke averages 2.93 kills per set and led the Huskers against Penn State with a career-high 22 kills, the most by a Husker this season. Foecke has won two Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week honors.

• Outside hitter Kelsey Fien, an All-Big performer in 2014, is averaging 2.50 kills per set. Fien had a career-high 19 kills against Oregon on Sept. 5.

• Senior middle blocker Cecilia Hall is putting up 1.86 kills per set on the season with a .301 hitting percentage.

Scouting Northwestern

The Wildcats are led by Symone Abbott’s 3.39 kills per set. Sofia Lavin averages 2.68 kills per set. Caroline Niedospial leads the Big Ten with 5.07 digs per set and Abbie Kraus is first in aces per set (0.37). In conference play, Northwestern is fourth in kills (13.50 per set) and fifth in digs (14.85 per set). Taylor Tashima averages 11.21 assists per set.

Scouting Illinois

The Fighting Illini get 4.06 kills per set from Jocelynn Birks and 3.67 kills per set from Michelle Strizak. They rank third and seventh in the Big Ten, respectively. Katie Stadick adds 2.91 kills per set and 1.16 blocks per set. Freshman setter Jordyn Poulter provides 11.35 assists per set and was the Andi Collins Award winner (nation’s best setter) in high school last year. In conference play, Illinois is second in kills (13.91 per set) and assists (13.39 per set).

Wong-Orantes Moving Up Career Digs Chart

Junior Justine Wong-Orantes ranks sixth in school history with 1,113 career digs entering Friday’s match. Wong-Orantes surpassed 1,000 career digs at Iowa State on Sept. 19, becoming the fastest Husker to reach 1,000 digs, doing so in just 75 matches.

Rolfzen Closing in on 1,000 Kills

Junior Kadie Rolfzen enters Friday’s match with 959 career kills. She is aiming to become the 21st player in Husker history to reach 1,000 career kills and just the ninth to do so before her senior season. The last Husker to reach the 1,000-kill plateau before her senior season was Jordan Larson as a junior in 2007.