Illini Volleyball Falls To Nebraska In National Semifinals
The Fighting Illini volleyball team was one set away from a trip to the national championship match against Stanford, but ultimately came up just short in a 3-2 loss (22-25, 16-25, 25-23, 25-20, 15-11).
Illinois took advantage of some uncharactaristic Nebraska errors in taking the first two sets, as the Cornhuskers hit just .129 in the second set.
"We knew they weren't going to go away," head coach Chris Tamas said after the match. "You don't make it to four straight Final Fours by chance."
Nebraska certainly didn't go away. They rebounded to hit .298 in the third set and got 19 kills each from All-American Mikaela Foecke and Lexi Sun.
The Illini were led by junior All-American Jacqueline Quade with a match-high 28 kills, just one off her career high.
"She's a real force out there," Tamas said. "We rely on her a lot. Even though everyone knows the ball is going to her, she still finds a way to get a kill, keeps us in rallies."
Saying I’m proud of this team is an understatement. Lots of love and respect for everyone in this photo and everyone who helped @IlliniVBall reach new levels and continually beat expectations. This squad is an all time Illini team #SSO #NWS #proudcoach I-L-L pic.twitter.com/A9JRwXpCdj— Chris Tamas (@coachtamas) December 14, 2018
Senior setter Jordyn Poulter had 46 assists in her final match at Illinois. She reflected on her Illini career after the match.
"You think about the things that we had to go through," Poulter said. "Went through a coaching change. Went through people transferring. We went through people coming in. Ultimately we stuck it out. I think that's special."
The loss snapped a 17-match win streak for Illinois, which closes the season with a 32-4 record. It was the fourth NCAA Final Four appearance in program history.
"Words can't express how proud I am of this group," Tamas said. "I told them in the locker room, 'This goes down as one of the all-time best teams I've been around.'"
Nebraska advances to face top-seeded Stanford in Saturday's championship match. The Cardinal are coached by former Illinois head coach Kevin Hambly.