CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – In front of over 3,500 rowdy Illinois fans, the No. 7 Fighting Illini volleyball team battled against defending national champion and No. 3-ranked Nebraska, before falling 3-1 in the first setback of the season on Stuff Huff Night at Huff Hall on Saturday (September 29).
Junior Jacqueline Quade paced the Illini (14-1, 3-1 B1G) with her second-straight 20-kill match, equaling a season-high with 22 on a .269 hitting percentage, while redshirt-junior Beth Prince joined her in double digits with 12 kills on the night.
Senior Jordyn Poulter notched her third-straight double-double – the 30th of her career and seventh of the season – with 42 assists and team-highs of 13 digs and four blocks.
Defensively, sophomore Morgan O’Brien registered a team-high 13 digs in the match.
It was a side-out start to the match with nine ties in the opening set until the Huskers (13-1, 4-0 B1G) – leading by one at 12-11 – scored eight unanswered points to take a 20-11 advantage until Poulter won a joust at the net to stop the run. After trading points, the Huskers took the first, 25-14, on back-to-back service aces.
After Nebraska grabbed an early 8-4 advantage, the Illini came back to knot thing at 12-12 early in the second. Four-straight Illini points then broke a 14-14 tie to give the home team the 18-14 edge. The Huskers closed within two on four separate occasions, but the Illini answered every point until four-unanswered scores closed out the 25-19 set in favor of the Orange and Blue.
The Huskers jumped out to a 7-2 lead in the third, but the Illini pulled even at 10-10 with four-straight points, including an ace from sophomore Kylie Bruder and a block from Poulter and Fleming. After a solo Fleming stuff and a Husker hitting error gave the Illini a 12-11 edge, the visitors strung five-straight points together for a 15-12 advantage. A Quade kill pulled the Illini to within 18-15, but the Huskers grabbed a 2-1 advantage in the match with a 7-2 run to finish off the third at 25-17.
Following a 10-4 start to the fourth from the Huskers, the Illini cut the deficit to two at 13-11 with four unanswered points – including a Cooney kill that was originally called out, but overturned on a challenge from head coach Chris Tamas. The Illini continued to stay close as a Bastianelli and Poulter block pulled UI within 17-15, but back-to-back Husker kills slowed the rally. From there, Nebraska used three-straight points to take a 23-17 edge, before taking the match with a 25-19 set win.
Illinois next hosts a midweek match-up with No. 5 Wisconsin on Wednesday (October 3) in Huff Hall. First serve is set for 8 p.m. CT on BTN.