The Huskers followed up their hard fought loss to Texas by kicking off conference play at the Bob Devaney Sports Center against the Iowa Hawkeyes.
The teams traded sideouts until Alexa Ethridge began serving at 7-7. It forced Iowa coach Bond Shymansky to call timeout down 12-7. Out of the timeout, the Huskers extended the lead to as much as 10 before Iowa started to fight back in it. Nebraska finally took the set 25-18.
Both teams had great hitting numbers, with the Huskers outhitting the Hawkeyes .417-.344. Nebraska had only three hitting errors, and Iowa had only four.
Alicia Ostrander led the Huskers with five kills on nine attempts with no errors to hit .556. She was also credited with two block assists. Meghan Haggerty was the other half of those blocks.
Alexa Ethridge had two aces and the Huskers didn’t commit a service error in the first set.
The second set started off much the same as the first, with sideouts being traded for awhile until the Huskers took the lead at 4-3 on a Melanie Keil kill. From that point, the Huskers opened up a lead until Amber Rolfzen committed the Huskers first service error making the score 9-6 Nebraska.
At the media timeout, the score was Nebraska 15, Iowa 9. The Huskers kept the pressure on the Hawkeyes, forcing an Iowa timeout with the score 20-10 Big Red.
Iowa narrowed the score to 20-12, but the Huskers got the sideout and an Amber Rolfzen block to help push the lead to 11, 23-12 and forcing another Hawkeye timeout. The Huskers scored out of the timeout, and then exchanged sideouts with Iowa to take the set 24-13.
For set two, Nebraska hit .429 and Iowa hit -.040. The Huskers had 33 kills to Iowa’s 22. Through two sets, Amber Rolfzen was leading all Huskers hitters with seven kills on thirteen attempts and no errors to hit .538.
The Huskers led Iowa in blocks by a margin of six to three with Meghan Haggerty leading the way with five assisted blocks.
The Huskers’ first two points of the third came off Amber Rolfzen kills and it appeared that the Huskers weren’t going to waste time getting a more subdued Devaney crowd on their way.
Ethridge’s serve seemed to confound the Hawkeye serve receive as she recorded her third ace of the evening to push the Husker lead to 8-5.
A Mary Pollmiller solo block pushed the Husker lead to four at the media timeout, 15-11.
Iowa seized momentum and pulled to within a point and Coach Cook called the first Nebraska timeout of the set with the 15-14 lead. The Hawkeyes took the first two points out of the timeout and Nebraska got help from an Iowa serve hit long to get the ball back with the score knotted at 16.
Nebraska took the lead back at 20-19 and after the Huskers won the next point, Iowa used their first timeout of the set.
The Hawkeyes knotted the score again at 22. The score was tied again at 23, but a Kadie Rolfzen attack that was called out gave Iowa a set point. More on some questionable calls later. Coach Cook was then forced to use his second timeout.
With the score tied 25-25, Alexa Ethridge was back on the service line. A net violation on the Iowa attack gave Nebraska their first set point and forced Iowa’s second, and final, timeout.
Tension continued to ratchet up in the gym as the Huskers tied the set again at 27. Iowa took their fourth set point at 28, but Alicia Ostrander tied it up. A back row block call by the officials gave the Huskers their second set point at 29-28.
It took a Kadie Rolfzen kill to give Nebraska a third set point, and finally a block by Haggerty and Amber Rolfzen finished the set off 31-29, completing the sweep of the Hawkeyes.
The Huskers hit a more than respectable .347 on the night to Iowa’s .202. Amber Rolfzen didn’t commit a single error on the night and hit a stellar .625 out of the right side. Melanie Keil registered a .538 with eight kills on thirteen attempts and only one error.
Both Justine Wong-Orantes and Kadie Rolfzen had seven digs for the Huskers for the night. In total, the Huskers had 26 digs to the Hawkeyes’ 24.
Nebraska had eight total blocks on the night, with Mary Pollmiller recording the lone solo block, and Meghan Haggerty getting six assisted blocks.
Questionable officiating went both ways. From my vantage point, there was a ball hit out by Amber Rolfzen give the advantage of a touch by- well, I’m not really sure as there wasn’t an Iowa player anywhere near it. However, there were also two balls called long that the Devaney crowd…politely…? disagreed with.
The Huskers travel to Iowa City on Saturday to close out the Iowa portion of the B1G schedule right away. While these matches are a great barometer, the teeth of the season come up quickly with Penn State coming to town on Friday, October 3. Penn State sits number three in the AVCA rankings.