Michelle Bartsch totaled a match-high 25 kills and added 12 digs, while All-American Laura DeBruler totaled 15 kills and 20 digs in a losing effort.
Saturday's attendance of 4,032 broke the program's record for largest spring match down, easily topping the 2,792 fans that saw the Huskers' match against Kentucky in 2008.
Illinois used a strong late run to overcome a four-point deficit and pull out a 25-23 victory. The Huskers hit .238 in the set with five kills on .500 hitting from Hannah Werth, but DeBruler and Bartsch combined for 11 kills without an error as Illinois hit .429 in the opener. The Huskers led for most of the first set and were ahead 21-17, before the Illini took control with six straight points, including five off the serve of DeBruler, to take a 23-21 advantage. The Huskers got within 24-23, but could get no closer, as DeBruler's fifth kill of the set ended the rally.
Nebraska tightened the defense in the second set, holding Illinois to .167 hitting in posting a 25-22 win to even the match. Brooke Delano came up big for the Huskers in the second set, delivering six kills on .667 hitting, to even the match at one set apiece. The Huskers took control early, using the serving of freshman Morgan Broekhuis to key an 8-1 spurt, taking an 11-6 lead on a Delano kill. The Huskers built a 16-13 advantage only to see Illinois respond with 6-0 spurt, taking a 19-16 lead on a Bartsch kill. Tara Mueller stopped the run with a kill before Broekhuis ran off three straight points from the service line, as an Illinois error put the Huskers up 20-19. The two teams traded points until Nebraska took advantage of two straight Illinois errors to make it 23-21. Delano then made it 24-21 with an ace, and the Huskers closed out the set moments later on an Illini service error.
The third set was a back-and-forth battle before the Illini edged out the Huskers, 25-23. Mueller led NU with five kills on seven swings, but NU was held to .200 hitting, compared to .294 for the Illinois. The Huskers used a 7-3 spurt, turning 7-all deadlock into a 14-10 lead on a block by Delano and Broekhuis. Illinois came right back, winning eight of the next 11 rallies to taken an 18-17 lead on a DeBruler kill. The Huskers leveled the score at 20, but a DeBruler kill and a Husker attack error put the Illini up 22-20. NU closed to within one point at 24-23 on a Delano kill, but Bartsch ended the third set with her fourth kill of the set.
The Huskers played their best volleyball of the night in the fourth set, as Mueller and Delano combined for seven kills on .500 hitting in a 25-18 victory. NU out-hit Illinois, .243-.184, and seized the momentum with a late run. Nebraska led 14-12 before a Delano kill began a 5-2 spurt for Nebraska, as the Huskers took a 19-14 lead on a Hayley Thramer kill. NU continued to extend the lead, pushing the margin to 22-15 before cruising to the seven-point win to even the match.
Nebraska continued its strong late-game surge in the finale, hitting .294 as a team in posting a 15-12 victory. Five players had at least one kill in the set, including two each by Delano and Mueller. Neither team led by more than two points prior to the changeover, as the Huskers took the lead for good at 10-9 on an Illinois service error before another miscue gave NU a two-point lead. Illinois got to within 12-11 on an Erin Johnson kill, but Nebraska's All-Americans took over. Kills from Delano and Mueller made it 14-12 and Anderson closed out the match with a kill on match point, sending the sellout crowd home happy.
The Huskers will wrap up the spring portion of their schedule next Saturday, as they travel to Minnesota for a match with the Golden Gophers next Saturday afternoon.