Nebraska’s three-set win against Illinois on Saturday was the Madi Kubik match.
The junior outside hitter for the ninth-ranked Husker volleyball team continued her tear through the Big Ten Conference with 19 kills in a 25-21, 25-15, 25-19 win at the Devaney Sports Center.
That makes eight straight wins for the Huskers, the program’s longest winning streak in the past three seasons. It’s the longest winning streak since the Huskers won 13 consecutive matches during the 2018 national runner-up season.
Nebraska’s 8-0 start to the Big Ten season includes six sweeps and no five-setters. And that streak immediately followed a three-match losing streak and some “come to Jesus moments” for the Husker players.
While the Huskers will still need to prove themselves against a string of ranked teams like the ones that beat them earlier in the season, Nebraska has taken a big step forward the past month.
“I don’t know, I just feel like we’re getting better every week,” Kubik said. “I feel like every time we come into the gym, there’s improvement in some area. And everyone comes in with a focus and an intention that is really exciting, because I think it’s going to make us really, really good. I kind of just feel like we’re flowing."
Kubik’s 19 kills were 12 more than any other player in the match. She had just three errors for a season-best .457 hitting percentage. Lindsay Krause was next for the Huskers with seven kills. Lauren Stivrins had five.
Kubik feels like the entire team is playing better and with more trust in each other, and she’s just doing the same.
“I feel like I just keep saying it, (but) we’re establishing a level of trust that makes us feel. … I don’t know, I feel invincible,” Kubik said.
Time after time Kubik kept abusing the Illinois blockers with shots off their hands.
She’s got a few things in her “tool box” of shots, but tooling the block is probably the most effective.
“That’s something in our tool box of things that we do to get kills,” Kubik said. “We train that every single day. It’s just understanding the situation, and seeing what’s available.”
Kubik was also efficient on back-row attacks, which don’t usually produce such a high success rate.
Husker libero Lexi Rodriguez has a great view of most of Kubik’s kills from just a few feet behind her. She can sense the confidence Kubik is playing with.
“She’s playing amazing right now, so it’s really fun to see,” Rodriguez said.
Kubik has had at least 10 kills in eight straight matches, and ranks No. 2 in the Big Ten in kills since the league season began.
Her 19 kills equaled her season high from two other matches, but those were each in four-set matches.
Nebraska finished with a .267 hitting percentage, and held Illinois to .100. The Husker defense has held three straight opponents under .115 hitting.
Rodriguez led Nebraska’s floor defense with 17 digs, and Nicklin Hames added 10. Callie Schwarzenbach and Krause added three blocks apiece.
Kubik was great from the start again, putting down six of Nebraska’s 11 kills in the first set.
During a 5-0 run in the first set, served by Keonilei Akana, Kubik had four kills, with all but one with a shot she hit off the blockers’ hands.
Kubik just kept going in the second set, putting down eight kills on 14 attempts.
Nebraska coach John Cook said Kubik played a high level the entire match.
“We expect that from Madi, and she’s capable of that,” Cook said. “And I think Nicklin gave her some great sets tonight. She got her openings, and one-on-ones.”
Kyla Swanson, a junior from Wahoo, started at middle blocker for Illinois (12-7, 4-4 Big Ten). She had six kills and a match-high five blocks.