Illinois volleyball set to face No 1. Nebraska

Illinois+head+coach+Kevin+Hambly+talks+to+his+team+between+sets+during+the+match+against+Arkansas+on+August+26.+The+Ilini+won+3-0.
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Illinois volleyball set to face No 1. Nebraska

Illinois head coach Kevin Hambly talks to his team between sets during the match against Arkansas on August 26. The Ilini won 3-0.

Illinois head coach Kevin Hambly talks to his team between sets during the match against Arkansas on August 26. The Ilini won 3-0.

Austin Yattoni

Illinois head coach Kevin Hambly talks to his team between sets during the match against Arkansas on August 26. The Ilini won 3-0.

Austin Yattoni

Austin Yattoni

Illinois head coach Kevin Hambly talks to his team between sets during the match against Arkansas on August 26. The Ilini won 3-0.

By James Boyd, Staff writer

Nebraska is the No. 1 volleyball team in the country, and Wednesday night the team will carry its undefeated record into Huff Hall.

Illinois’ matchup against the defending national champion will be the Illini’s biggest test in what has already been an up and down season.

After winning the Illini Classic, the team went on a four-game losing streak which culminated with a straight sets loss to Oregon.

The lopsided defeat dropped Illinois to 2-4 on the season, but since then the Illini haven’t lost a match.

Illinois is currently on a seven-match win streak and remains undefeated in the Big Ten. In its first two conference matches, the team took down No. 10 Purdue on the road in a five-set thriller and returned home to defeat Rutgers in straight sets.

Head coach Kevin Hambly was pleased his team won against the Scarlet Knights, but did not love how it happened.

“Just about every single thing we need to get better at.” Hambly said following the win. “It was a sloppy match for us. Stats can be the greatest liar sometimes. And the girls know it. I don’t need to talk about it too much. (Nebraska is) a really clean team. (If) we play like this, they’ll cut us up.”

The Cornhuskers have won 27 consecutive matches dating back to last season, but they too will be looking to rebound from their last match.

No. 18 Michigan State was up 2-0 against Nebraska and led 13-8 in the third set before squandering away an opportunity to win in straight sets. The Cornhuskers went on a 7-2 run to tie the game at 15, before going on to win 25-20

Still down 2-1, the Cornhuskers won the fourth and fifth sets to earn their 11th straight victory over a top-25 team.

Nebraska will look to extend that streak to 12 against Illinois who just reentered the top 25 at No. 24.
Hambly said that he isn’t concerned with Nebraska’s success over the past two years. He’s more concerned with how his team responds to top competition.

“I think they’re going to be good either way and I think they’re a challenge for us,” Hambly said. “We don’t really put a lot of stock in them being number one or them being undefeated. I don’t use a lot of tricks like that. (My team’s) motivation is on Nebraska because it’s a Big Ten match and it’s home and they’re a good team.”

Freshman Jacqueline Quade was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week after recording 13 kills and 12 kills against Purdue and Rutgers respectively. The outside hitter will look to continue her success against Nebraska with the help of her sophomore setter Jordyn Poulter.

“I think every match in the Big Ten is a big match, and we’re looking at (Nebraska) as a beatable opponent which I think every team in the country is right now,” Poulter said. “We’re looking forward to it.”

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