volleyball

Nebraska's Mikaela Foecke hits against Michigan blockers during a game at the Bob Devaney Sports Center on Friday, Sept. 21, 2018, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Third-ranked Nebraska volleyball will leave Nebraska for the first time this season as the team hits the road to face Northwestern and No. 7 Illinois this weekend.

On Friday, the Huskers take on Northwestern in Evanston, Illinois. This match will be played at Evanston Township High School because of a $110 million renovation being made to Northwestern’s Welsh-Ryan Arena. This will be Northwestern's first home match of the season. Nebraska has won eight straight matches against the Wildcats.

The following night, Nebraska will play the Fighting Illini in Champaign, Illinois. The Huskers are 9-2 against Illinois since joining the Big Ten and have won the last five matches.

Head coach John Cook said the team’s first trip out of the Cornhusker State could be beneficial for his team.

“On the road, it’s just us,” Cook said. “We haven’t had that bunker mentality yet on the road with just us fighting with each other and for each other. I think it’s going to be really good for us.”

Northwestern currently sits at 10-4 after dropping its first two matches to start Big Ten play last weekend, where they fell to both Indiana and then-No. 16 Purdue 3-1 on the road.

The Wildcats have the lowest hitting percentage of any team in the Big Ten so far this season at just .214. Nebraska has allowed the lowest hitting percentage of any team in the country, with teams hitting just .106 against the Huskers this season. This means offense may be hard to come by for the Wildcats.

Northwestern’s sophomore hitter Nia Robinson will be a key player for the Wildcat’s offense. Robinson leads Northwestern with 4.14 kills per set this season. That mark is also good for fourth-highest of any player in the conference.

Senior hitter Mikaela Foecke leads the Huskers with 3.67 kills-per-set.

The Illini may present more of a challenge to Nebraska on Saturday. Illinois is one of three undefeated teams left in the nation with a record of 13-0. Four of those wins have come against teams currently ranked in the Top-25.

The Illini are led by former Husker assistant Chris Tamas, who took the head coaching job at Illinois in February 2017.

Illinois kept its undefeated season intact by opening conference play with wins against Purdue and Indiana.

The Illini’s offense has been dangerous with a hitting percentage of .293, second highest in the Big Ten this season. Illinois also ranks third in the conference in kills, averaging 14.17 kills-per-set as a team.

Powering the Illini’s offense is senior blocker Ali Bastianelli and junior hitter Jacqueline Quade. Bastianelli is hitting .393 this season with 103 kills on 206 swings and just 22 errors. Quade is Illinois leader in kills. She averages 4.06 kills-per-set, good enough for fifth-best in the Big Ten.

The Huskers Friday night match with the Wildcats is set for a 7 p.m. first serve and will air on BTN Plus. The next night, Nebraska’s match against Illinois is also set to start at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on BTN.

sports@dailynebraskan.com