The Huskers rally for a five-set win over Illinois.
Lincoln. — The No. 7 Nebraska volleyball team dug itself into an early 0-2 hole to the undefeated No. 3 Illinois Fighting Illini, but 11,892 fans at the Devaney Center kept the Huskers going as the Huskers came back to win in five sets (21-25, 21-25, 25-22, 25-14, 16-14).
"The crowd was awesome," Cook said. "I don't know the total number, but I've never heard the Devaney this loud."
Not only were the Illini the No. 3 team in the country, but they were the highest ranked non-conference team to ever make a trip to Lincoln during Head Coach John Cook's tenure at Nebraska. The win marked the first time that the Huskers have taken down a top five team since Dec. 13, 2008, where they got down 0-2 to Washington at the Pacific Regional and came back in five.
All-Tournament MVP Brooke Delano led the Huskers attack with a career-best 15 kills on 32 swings (.406), while she also added a team-high eight blocks. Delano was joined on the All-Tournament Team by seniors Kayla Banwarth, who led all players with 22 digs, and Lindsey Licht, who chipped in 11 kills and six blocks.
The Fighting Illini jumped out to an early 4-0 lead in set one before Cook set up Hannah Werth to get the ball rolling for Nebraska. With Werth then serving, the Huskers strung together four straight points to take the lead, 5-4, as Licht put up two blocks and Werth added an ace.
After each team made its initial run, the two squads nearly matched each other point-for-point until Illinois took the lead at 10-9. Nebraska then ran off four straight with back-to-back kills from Broekhuis, a kill from Werth and finished the run with an impressive rally that included multiple digs from Delano and ended with a block from Werth and Jordan Wilberger to take the lead, 13-10.
Illinois would slowly chip away at the Husker lead to eventually take a 19-18 lead following a kill from Colleen Ward that would force a Nebraska timeout. Michelle Bartsch charted a kill out of the break to give Illinois its first multiple-point lead since they opened the set 4-0. The Illini would take five of the next eight points to win set one, 25-21.
Unlike set one, neither team could create early separation in set two, as the two teams were tied at 5-5. Tara Mueller, who notched a double-double on the night with 12 kills and 15 digs, then fueled a 4-0 Nebraska run with two kills to post a 9-5 lead for the Huskers and force an Illini timeout
Just like in set one, the Illini would slowly work their way back into the set and take the lead at 16-15. Following a Nebraska timeout, the Huskers battled back with back-to-back kills from Allison McNeal and Werth to tie the set at 17-17, but Illinois responded with three straight of its own to take a 20-17 lead and force Nebraska's second timeout of the set.
The Huskers did their best out of the break to get back within two points at 23-21, but the Illini were too much and took set two, 25-21.
The teams split the first six points in set three, before Licht, Mueller and Delano strung together kills to build a three point lead, 6-3. The Illini kept their composer and tied the set three times at 8-8, 10-10 and 11-11, but were unable to overtake the Husker lead, as Nebraska went on to build a 13-11 lead following a combo-block from Delano and Licht.
Illinois got back within one at 18-17, when Cook slipped in a kill to once again extend Nebraska's lead to two. The teams would be squared at 20-20, 21-21 and 22-22, but Nebraska would not be denied and reeled off three straight behind a kill from Licht, a block from Delano and Broekhius along with a kill from Mueller to take set three, 25-21.
While each team notched four blocks in the set, the Huskers won the war at the net as four players had three kills apiece and the Huskers hit .333 as a team, while Illinois swung at .250.
Nebraska carried its set three momentum into the fourth stanza to take a 5-0 lead with Banwarth serving. Mancuso started with a kill, before Delano followed with a block and kill on back-to-back plays. Following an Illini attack error and timeout, Banwarth fired an ace, before Illinois got on the board with a kill from Johannah Bangert.
Nebraska continued to string together consecutive points early, as it added another 5-0 to take an 11-3 lead, with Mancuso adding two kills from Cook during the run. The Huskers kept the pressure and had an answer for every Illini attack, as the Huskers built a nine-point lead at 15-6 after three straight kills from Licht, Mueller and Broekhuis.
The Illini would get back within six at 18-12, but Mancuso quickly shut the door with a kill and a solo stuff on consecutive plays, followed by a Delano solo block and a Cook ace to push the lead to 10 points, 22-12. Jazmine Orozco responded with back-to-back kills, but it would be the last points of the set for Illinois, as Delano capped a 3-0 Husker run to finish the set 25-14 and tie the match at two sets apiece.
Both teams came out swinging in set five as they traded the first five points of the set, before Illini took a two-point lead at 4-2. The teams continued to play even ball to the break, with Illini up 8-6.
Swapping benches proved to be good for the Huskers, as they ran off three straight points to take their first lead of the set at 9-8 following a block from Wilberger and Licht to force an Illinois time out.
Licht opened with a kill out of the break, but Illinois answered with a kill and block to tie the set at 10-10, resulting in a Nebraska timeout. After the teams traded points, Illinois put up back-to-back blocks to take a 13-11 lead and force a second timeout from Nebraska.
Cook found something to motivate his team as the Huskers came out firing with three straight points on kills from Delano and Mueller, as well as a block from Delano and Broekhuis to take the lead at 14-13, resulting in an Illinois timeout.
Bangert tied the match once last time at 14-14, but it would be the Illini's last point. Just like in the first two sets, the home crowd got behind its team and the Huskers broke off two straight points to win the match, as Delano and Broekhuis sent back an Orozco attack to end Illinios' undefeated season.
With the 2010 non-conference slate concluded, the Huskers will turn their attention to the Big 12 Conference. Nebraska will open its final season in the Big 12 on Wednesday, Sept. 15 in Ames, Iowa, against the Iowa State Cyclones at 7 p.m. The match can be seen nationally on ESPNU and will be played at Ames High School due to flood damage at Hilton Coliseum.
Source: University of Nebraska Athletic Dept.