No. 25 Illinois volleyball opens four-match home stand with rematch against No. 9 Nebraska


Ryan Ash

Outside hitter Raina Terry (12) and Diana Brown hype each other up during a set against Purdue on Oct 6. The Illini hope to keep up their momentum from their victory against Penn State for their match against Nebraska.

Coming off a big weekend on the East Coast with wins over Rutgers and then-No. 13 Penn State, No. 25 Illinois (16-7 overall, 8-4 Big Ten) returns to Huff Hall with a four-match winning streak ahead of a four-match home stand over the course of the next two weeks. The Illini open that stretch on Thursday night with a meeting with the No. 9 Nebraska Cornhuskers, one of three ranked opponents they will face over the four matches.

The two teams squared off in Lincoln just under three weeks ago, with the Cornhuskers dominating from start to finish and handing the Illini their only 3-0 loss of the season thus far. 

“They’ve got a mix of some youth and experience,” said head coach Chris Tamas when discussing the challenges Nebraska pose. “They rely heavily on their experienced players, but at any given moment, they’ve got some youth, they can put up some big numbers or some big kills, and so it’s never about stopping one person. It’s always about trying to contain certain players, and last time we played, I think we let one player get loose a little bit too much in Madi Kubik.

“I felt like we played OK the last time we played them, but another opportunity to try to execute a little bit better this match than last one.”

The Cornhuskers sit at 16-5 overall and 10-2 in Big Ten play, which has them sitting joint first in the conference with the Wisconsin Badgers. But both of Nebraska’s losses have come in its last two matches, as it lost to No. 3 Wisconsin and No. 11 Minnesota last week.

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Kubik leads the team in kills (240) and points, while senior middle blockers Kayla Caffey and Callie Schwarzenbach have led the team defensively, as they have 65 and 58 blocks, respectively, this season.

Sophomore outside hitter Raina Terry emphasizes the importance of momentum in volleyball, as she says the win against Penn State will be huge heading into a tough stretch of matches at home.

“That was a huge win for us,” Terry said. “We knew that we could do it. I mean we’ve knocked off teams like that before, even last season with that win over Purdue at the end and the win at Purdue a couple weeks ago. So, I mean it proves we really can do it, and we are a top-25 team and we deserve to be up there.”

Terry recorded her fewest kills (7) this season against Nebraska on Oct. 16, and she is eager to get some revenge when the two teams play on Thursday night at 8 p.m.

“I wouldn’t say it necessarily stings, but it’s a form of motivation I guess,” Terry said when reflecting on the last match between the two sides. “We definitely could’ve done better in that match, I think, so we’ll be ready to battle and show them what Illinois volleyball really is about.”



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