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This Week in Illini Athletics: Aug. 30-Sept. 5, 2021

Illinois Football and Volleyball opened their seasons with wins.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG 28 Nebraska at Illinois Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Welcome to “This Week in Illini Athletics,” a weekly review of the past week of Illini sports and a preview of the week to come.

FOOTBALL (1-0 Overall, 1-0 Big Ten)

Last Week: Illinois started the Bret Bielema era with a bang, defeating Nebraska 30-22 in a game that was not as close as the score implies. The first points of the game came on an Illinois special teams safety you have to see to believe.

Soon after though, starting quarterback Brandon Peters exited with an injury, forcing backup Art Sitkowski into action. Sitkowski filled in admirably, leading three touchdown drives as part of 28 unanswered Illini points in a 14 minute stretch across the second and third quarters. Those 28 points gave Illinois a 30-9 lead that it never gave up, as Nebraska’s late comeback attempt proved futile. After the win, Illinois is 1-0 in Big Ten play for the first time since 2015.

This Week: This Saturday at 6:30 p.m., Illinois looks to improve to 2-0 when it hosts the UTSA Roadrunners to open up its non-conference slate.

WOMEN’S VOLLEYBALL (3-0 Overall, 0-0 Big Ten)

Last Week: After a rocky five-set win over UC Santa Barbara, the Illini cruised to consecutive sweeps of Milwaukee and Valparaiso to finish the weekend undefeated. In the opener, UCSB got out to a 2-1 lead in sets, but Illinois took the fourth set 25-22 and then ran away with the fifth set, winning it 15-8. The next two matches were much less dramatic, as the Illini won all six sets by over 5 points on average in their victories over Milwaukee and Valpo. Raina Terry led the team in kills with 37 in the three matches, and Kennedy Collins chipped in 32 kills on a hyper-efficient .500 hitting percentage.

This Week: Illinois returns home to Huff Hall this weekend, hosting two matches in the Big Ten/PAC-12 Challenge. First, the Illini meet the Washington Huskies at 8 p.m. on Friday. Then on Saturday, the Illini face off against Colorado at 2 p.m.

WOMEN’S SOCCER (2-2 Overall, 0-0 Big Ten)

Last Week: It was a rough week for the Illini women as they suffered two losses at the hands of No. 2 North Carolina and Butler. In Thursday’s match against the Tar Heels, Hope Breslin scored her fifth goal of the season just three minutes into the match to give Illinois a 1-0 lead in front of the home crowd. That lead was short-lived however, as North Carolina scored only a minute later en route to a 5-1 victory. Sunday’s match against Butler was a chippy one, with four yellow cards handed out, including three given to Butler in a span of five minutes in the second half. Kendra Pasquale scored the Illini’s lone goal in the 3-1 loss.

This Week: Illinois looks to bounce back on Thursday when it hosts Xavier at Demirjian Park at 7 p.m.

MEN’S and WOMEN’S CROSS COUNTRY

This Week: Both Illini cross country teams open their seasons on Friday down the road at Eastern Illinois’ Walt Crawford Open.

MEN’S GOLF

This Week: On Sunday, the 10th-ranked Illini travel to Indiana for the Hoosier Collegiate Invitational, the first of their four fall events.