We'll likely have a new No. 1 team in the national women's college rankings this week, as No. 4 Nebraska (17-1, 10-0) handled the previously top-ranked Illinois (20-1, 9-1) relatively easily, 24-26, 25-18, 25-19, 25-11, to mark the halfway point in Big 10 conference play.
The Illini came out on fire in Game 1, hitting .429 and siding out 72% of the time, but only won the opener 26-24, as the Cornhuskers weren't far behind in these two categories (.412, 68%). Illinois never hit better than .179 nor sided-out at better than 58% in any of the next three games, whereas Nebraska continued to side-out well in the final three games (78%, 63%, and 83%, respectively) and hit particularly well in Games 3 and 4 (.400 and .696). See box score here.
Individually, the Huskers had four players who exceeded hitting percentages of .300 on 22 or more spike attempts: Morgan Broekhuis, .444 (17 kills and only 1 error on 36 swings); Hannah Werth, .407; Brooke Delano, .318; and Gina Mancuso, .306. In addition, Hayley Thramer hit .300, on 10 attempts.
For Illinois, senior outside hitters Colleen Ward (17-5-39, .308) and Michelle Bartsch (22-5-58, .293) recorded solid percentages, but Nebraska stymied Illinois's middle-hitting attack.
Nebraska outblocked (11-5) and outdug (70-50) Illinois.
If there's one reservation about Nebraska at this point, it is that most of its best wins this season -- over Illinois, Penn State, Purdue, and Iowa State (non-conference) -- have been at home. The Huskers will play a return match at Penn State next Saturday, October 29, and at Purdue on November 12. However, last night's was the only Nebraska-Illinois match of the season, unless the teams meet again in the NCAA tournament.