On Wednesday night, the #4 Huskers welcomed the Michigan State Spartans to the Bob Devaney Sports Center and sent them home with a loss 3-1 (23-25, 25-15, 28-26, 25-15).
Set one did not start off well for the Huskers, with Michigan State opening up a 6-1 early lead and forced an early Nebraska timeout. Nebraska recovered, however, and a 6-1 run tied the set at 11 and forced Michigan State's first timeout.
Out of the timeout, the Spartans opened a three point lead 14-11, but the Huskers, thanks to a well-used challenge by Coach Cook, closed the gap back to one, 13-14.
The margin stayed in the one or two point range until the Spartans opened it up to a three-point lead, 20-17 and the Huskers used their second timeout of the first set.
Alicia Ostrander saw action out of the timeout, subbing for Mikaela Foecke and made her presence felt right away, burying a kill in the corner on her first swing, making the score 21-18 in Michigan State's favor.
The Huskers couldn't close the gap, and the Spartans got their first set point on a Kelsey Fien hitting error. The Huskers kept it interesting, and the Spartans had to challenge a call with the score 24-21, but ultimately the Spartans held on for the 25-23 win.
Husker hitting in the first set can best be described as anemic. Aside from Ostrander, who had one kill on one attempt, the leading Husker hitter was Kadie Rolfzen, who hit .111. The Huskers hit .068 in the first set.
A Fien kill and an Albrecht ace gave the Huskers a much stronger start to the second set, taking the first two points. The Spartans fought back and tied it and kept the score tight until a Husker run resulted in an 8-5 Big Red Advantage, and Michigan State's first timeout of the second set.
Michigan State answered with a run of their own out of the timeout to make the score 8-7, but two quick answers by the Huskers opened it up to 10-7, and a Kelly Hunter ace gave the Huskers a four-point advantage.
While the Spartans closed the gap to two briefly, the Huskers fought to maintain the advantage, and with the score 15-11, Michigan State used their second timeout of the set.
A nasty short serve, using all of the tape on its way down, befuddled the Michigan State passers out of the timeout, and helped extend the Husker lead to five.
Michigan State couldn't find an answer for the Husker block, serve, or offense in the latter part of the second set and the Huskers opened the lead to 22-12.
A three-point Michigan State run, highlighted by two Husker hitting errors and a Michigan State block, resulted in Nebraska using their first timeout of the set with the score 22-15 Huskers.
Kadie Rolfzen used the Spartan block out of the timeout end the run and extend the Husker lead to 23-15. A long, hard-fought point the ended with the Spartans hitting the ball long gave Nebraska the set point, and a Hunter-Hall block sealed the set for the Huskers 25-15.
The Huskers hit much better in the second set, hitting .233 to Michigan State's .030. Kadie Rolfzen added four kills to bring her total to seven, and Kelsey Fien added three to bring her total to five through two sets.
The second set started off tight, with Michigan State holding a slim advantage with the Spartans held a 3-1 and then a 5-3 lead in the early going. The Huskers tied the score both times, but held the tie after 5-5.
A Sydney Townsend ace gave the Huskers their first lead of the set at 8-7, a lead the Huskers opened up to 10-7 on a Spartan rotation error.
Michigan State closed to within one at 14-13 Nebraska, but a Kadie Rolfzen kill gave the Huskers the 15-13 advantage at the media timeout.
After the media timeout, the Huskers opened the lead up to 17-14 before Michigan State closed it to 17-16. Another two-point run by the Huskers made the score 19-16 and forced Michigan State's first timeout of the set.
The Spartans couldn't close the gap out of the timeout and were forced to use their second timeout trailing 22-17.
Two quick Spartan points made the score 22-19 and led to Husker Coach John Cook using his first timeout of the third set.
A Kadie Rolfzen kill out of the timeout gave the Huskers a 23-19 lead, and it looked like the Huskers were going to finish the set off. However, a Michigan State kill and service ace closed the gap to two. An apparent Kadie kill was challenged by Michigan State. The kill would have given Nebraska set point, but it was a well-used challenge, and make the score 23-22 Nebraska.
Michigan State tied the score on an Alicia Ostrander hitting error, and Coach Cook used the second Nebraska timeout of the set.
Kadie Rolfzen got the kill out of the timeout and gave Nebraska their first set point. However, an Ostrander attack was called long, and the score was tied again at 24. A Kadie Rolfzen kill gave the Huskers a second set point, but again Ostrander's attack was ruled errant.
This time it was Amber Rolfzen who put the ball down, and it gave Alicia Ostrander the serve, as Coach Cook was down to one substitution, which he used to insert Fien in the front row for Annika Albrecht. However, the Spartans once again tied the set, this time at 25.
Amber Rolfzen mis-hit an attack that rolled nearly the entire length of the net before dribbling off and landing on the line on the MSU side to give Nebraska their fourth set point. This time, the Huskers made good and finished off the set 28-26.
Through three sets, the Huskers were outhitting the Spartans by a narrow margin, .158-.134. Neither team looked great in the third, with both Fien and Kadie Rolfzen adding five kills to their totals to help the Huskers outhit the Spartans .200-.163 in the third set.
The Huskers looked to build momentum early in the fourth, taking a 2-0, before being on the losing end of a long rally. A ball-handling error called against Annika Albrecht tied the score at two, but a Kadie Rolfzen kill gave the Huskers the 3-2 lead.
The Huskers started to open the lead up on Ostrander's serve. The score was 5-5 before the Huskers sideout that put Ostrander on the service line. She had an assist on a Fien kill and an ace to help her own cause and the Husker lead opened to 9-5, leading to a Michigan State timeout, their first of the set.
While Michigan State closed the gap, they didn't weren't able to even the score. Nearly every time the Spartans earned a sideout, the following serve was errant. Nebraska kept serve and momentum and opened up a 17-10 lead before Michigan State used their final timeout of the set.
Michigan State closed the gap to 17-12, but a run on Kadie's serve opened it to 20-12 Huskers before a MSU sideout. MSU earned another point, but then the Huskers earned two to make it 22-13.
Nebraska earned their first match point with the score 24-15 on a Hunter kill and a Kadie Rolfzen finished the set 25-15 with her 18th kill of the night, securing the win for the Huskers.
The Huskers had their best set of the night, hitting .306 in the fourth with only three errors. Kadie Rolfzen led all hitters again with six kills in the final set.
For the match, the Huskers hit .193 to .132 for the Spartans. Kadie Rolfzen hit .250 for the night with 18 kills on 44 attempts. Kelsey Fein added 13 kills on 38 attempts to hit .211. Annika Albrecht led with a .286 percentage, with two kills on seven attempts.
Justine Wong-Orantes neared her season high with 28 digs on the night. Kadie Rolfzen had 10 digs to score another double-double, and Annika Albrecht also had 10 digs for the Huskers. All told the Huskers had 75 digs to the Spartans 63.
The Huskers' block has continued to be a HUGE asset this season. The Huskers added 13 more blocks tonight to 8.5 for Michigan State. Amber Rolfzen led all Huskers with one solo and seven assisted blocks.
What's most remarkable about the Husker block is that only two were solo blocks, meaning that the Huskers are closing blocks very well at the pins, taking away the in-system offense of the opponents.
The other much-improved aspect of the Husker game continues to be serving. The Huskers committed only seven errors on the night, to 13 for Michigan State, but had eight aces.
Michigan State is a team just outside the AVCA top 25. The Huskers looked stronger as the night went on, nicely shaking off the first set loss. There are eight B1G teams in the top 25, and nine in the top 27 if you count that MSU is 27th based on votes. That means that Nebraska will face a lot more matches like this as the season goes on.
The next Husker home volleyball match, the annual pink-out match, is 7:30 Saturday, October 10 against the #24 Michigan Wolverines.