Illini volleyball beats Nebraska for first time since 1992

The Illinois volleyball team finished off its longest road trip in Big Ten play Saturday with a hard-fought victory over Nebraska.

In the Illini’s fourth consecutive match on the road — three of coming against ranked foes — Illinois (14-5, 6-2 Big Ten) finished out close sets in a four-set victory over No. 13 Nebraska (11-6, 5-3). The victory marked the Illini’s first victory over the Huskers since 1992.

Senior outside hitter Morganne Criswell put together hear second consecutive strong performance after playing only one set last Saturday against Penn State. Criswell led the Illini with 21 kills, tying a career-high, while hitting .294 after posting 17 kills against Iowa on Wednesday.

Jocelynn Birks chipped in 19 kills and 13 digs for her fifth consecutive double-double.

Alicia Ostrander led Nebraska with 19 kills — five above her season-high. The Illini shut down the Huskers’ top outside hitter, Kadie Rolfzen, for much of the match. The sophomore, who ranks sixth in the conference in kills, was held to 12 kills with 10 errors on the match.

The two teams were even for much of the afternoon, with the deciding plays coming at the end of sets. With the first set tied at 22 apiece, the Illini took three of the final four points with two kills and a block. Illinois led 1-0 in the first set but wouldn’t grab the lead again until a kill from Birks gave the Illini a 21-20 lead.

The third set followed a similar narrative as neither team led by more than three points either way. Nebraska fought off two set points to tie the game at 24, then stifled another set point to bring the score to 25-25. The Illini stepped up in crunch time, again, as Liz McMahon put down a kill and an Ostrander hitting error ended the set.

The Illini ended their current road trip at 3-1, with victories at Penn State, Iowa and Nebraska.

Stephen can be reached at [email protected] and @steve_bourbon.