After the Utah Utes swept the Kansas State Wildcats in convincing fashion in the first match of the night at the Bob Devaney Sports Center, the Husker women took the court for their NCAA First Round match against the Hofstra Pride. It was a gutsy win by the Huskers, but a sweep, 27-25, 25-23, 25-16.
The Pride shook of any jitters right away, burying an overpass in the Husker back row, blocking a Cecilia Hall attack, and using a Husker net violation to open up a 3-0 lead before a Kelsey Fien kill stopped the run.
Hofstra kept the pressure on and took advantage of a Pollmiller service error to open up a 5-1 lead before a Hall kill gave the serve back to the Big Red.
Hofstra had a five-point lead at 8-3 before the Huskers started to cut into the lead. The momentum really swung in the Huskers favor with a Kadie Rolfzen ace that dropped in front of the ten-foot line for an ace, and a beautiful roll shot , again by Kadie, dropped in the middle of the Hofstra defense. A Meghan Haggerty/Kelsey Fien block tied the score at nine and forced Hofstra’s first timeout.
The score stayed tight for a good part of the set, until Justine Wong-Orantes opened up a four-point lead on her serve and forced Hofstra’s second timeout with the score 19-15 Big Red.
A bad call and a hitting error out of the timeout brought Hofstra back to within two, and forced the first Husker timeout of the set with a two-point lead, 19-17. The Huskers clung to the two- or three-point lead for a bit, but Hofstra closed it to one point, 23-22, and forced a second Husker timeout.
Another controversial call tied the set at 23, but the Amber Rolfzen and Cecilia Hall got the a block to take the Huskers’ first set point. After trading points a couple of times, the Huskers closed out the set 27-25.
The Huskers hit a dismal .128 in the set, but it was better than the abysmal .068 that Hofstra managed. Kadie Rolfzen led the way for Nebraska’s hitters, hitting .333 with five kills on twelve attempts. Amber Rolfzen added three kills on nine attempts to hit .222.
The Huskers came out much stronger in set two, opening up a 7-2 lead and forcing the first Pride timeout. The Huskers kept the pressure on, however, and continued to extend the lead out of the timeout, opening it to as much as eight, at 12-4, before a run by Hofstra’s Keslie Wills on serve pulled Hofstra within four at 12-8 and forced the first Nebraska timeout of the set.
Out of the timeout, Meghan Haggerty had a decisive kill, and at least slowed the Pride’s momentum. Nebraska opened up a six-point lead, 16-10, that forced the second Hofstra timeout of the set, their last.
The timeout didn’t slow the Husker momentum much. Big blocks and scorching swings by the Husker front row kept Hofstra off-balance and struggling to stay in the match. The Huskers once again opened an nine-point lead at 22-13, and again at 23-14, but Hofstra chipped away at that lead, closing to within six at 23-17, which led to Coach Cook’s second, and final, timeout of the set.
Hofstra earned the first point out of the timeout, but Alicia Ostrander, who was inserted for a struggling Kelsey Fien, terminated the ball and gave Nebraska their first set point, with the score 24-18. Hofstra fought hard, and put a good scare into the Huskers and Husker faithful, but ultimately the Huskers finished off the set 25-23.
Through two sets, neither team seemed to be able to get much offense going, with the Huskers leading the Pride .139-.079. The Huskers had 23 kills on 72 attempts with 13 errors, and Hofstra had 28 kills on 89 attempts with 21 errors. The difference in the first two sets was blocking, with Nebraska outblocking Hofstra 14.5-6.0. Both teams had five service errors, but Nebraska led with three aces to one for Hofstra.
Kadie Rolfzen was leading all Husker attackers in kills (8) and percentage (.286) through the first two sets. Amber Rolfzen was an absolute monster at the net with one solo and seven assisted blocks for the first two sets.
The Huskers took the first three points of set two before an Amber Rolfzen hitting error made the score 3-1 Huskers. The Huskers took serve back immediately, and Melanie Keil saw her first action of the night, contributing immediately with an assisted block with Amber Rolfzen. That pushed the score to 5-1 Nebraska and forced the first Hofstra timeout of the set.
Annika Albrecht recorded her first kill of the match out of the timeout, and then a Wong-Orantes ace pushed the lead to six for the Huskers, 7-1.
Hofstra closed the gap a couple of times over the course of the set, but never put a big scare into the crowd at Devaney. Hofstra used their second, and final, timeout trailing 16-9, but the Huskers didn’t stop, earning their first set point leading 24-12.
For the second straight set, the Pride fought hard with the Huskers holding set (and now match) point. The Huskers called timeout with the 24-15 lead. It required a Hofstra service error for the Huskers to finally close out the sweep with the 25-16 third set win.
The Huskers had a season-high 19.5 blocks tonight, which surpassed the previous high of 18 in the Ohio State five-set loss. The Huskers hit .225 in the third set, and improvement over the first two, but only hit .170 on the night.
Kadie Rolfzen had 13 kills tonight to lead the team and added fifteen digs for the double-double. She hit .323. No other Husker hitter was even close, with Kelsey Fien recording the second highest number of kills with six and a .167 hitting clip.
Amber Rolfzen had nine assisted blocks, and one solo block, and Cecilia Hall had six assisted and one solo block to lead the way for an unbelievable blocking night for the Huskers. The final line of five solo and 29 assisted blocks is an incredible number for a team that has struggled at times to block effectively this year.
Overall, it was a complete victory, but there were sources for concern going into the match against a VERY hot Utah team. The Huskers could not quite close out the sets tonight, allowing a lot of points at the end of the last two.
This was a great performance by both Rolfzen twins, the kind of leadership and ability to take the team on their back that we’ve been hoping for from the two of them. The opponent on Saturday night is MUCH more stout, and will show whether or not this team will have what it takes to compete deeper into the post-season.