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Volleyball: Nebraska Invitational Day Two

The Huskers easily dispatched Grand Canyon, but had to earn it against Pittsburgh to move to 3-0 on the season.

After knocking off a stout University of Tulsa squad on Friday night, the University of Nebraska Women's Volleyball team met the Grand Canyon University Antelopes for the matinee on Saturday, defeating them 3-0 (25-21, 25-8, 25-11) and closed the day by defeating the University of Pittsburgh Panthers 3-1 (25-9, 25-20, 27-29, 25-19).

For the noon match-up with GCU, Coach Cook started Kelsey Fien at the outside hitter, with Annika Albrecht playing her back row. He also stuck with Meghan Haggerty at middle blocker over Cecilia Hall. Haggerty far outhit Hall on Friday night, but Hall was a more effective blocker.

The Huskers got off to a much faster start on Saturday, opening up a quick 7-2 lead on a 5-0 run. Mikaela Foecke had two monstrous kills in the run, and Grand Canyon used a timeout early.

The Huskers opened the lead up to 12-3 before giving up serve again. The Antelopes narrowed it to 15-10 at one point, but the Huskers scored two more quick points and GCU used their second timeout with Nebraska leading 17-10.

Late in the set, GCU put together a run and closed the score to 23-19 which led to Coach Cook taking his first timeout. Nebraska didn't stop the run out of the timeout, and a couple of hitting errors brought the score to 23-21 Nebraska, but the Huskers finally sealed it 25-21.

After having an audacious hitting number early in the set of .600, the Huskers came back down to earth a bit, finishing with a .257 percentage. Kadie Rolfzen hit .400 with five kills, and Mikaela Foecke hit .286 with three kills.

The Huskers opened much stronger in set two than they finished set one. Kelsey Fien recorded three kills to start the set putting the Huskers up 3-0. The lead increased to 8-2 before GCU used their first timeout. The Huskers extended the lead to 16-5 and GCU used their second, and final, timeout of the set.

The second set proved to be much less eventful than the first, with the Huskers winning it 25-8 on an Olivia Boender kill. The Huskers were hitting .420 through two sets to .108 for GCU. The Huskers had 38 digs to GCU's 24 after two.

Set three started with Olivia Boender playing for Kadie Rolfzen and Cecilia Hall playing for Amber Rolfzen. The set started off with the teams trading points, staying essentially tied until Nebraska opened up a 7-5 lead. The Huskers pushed the lead to 12-8 at which point GCU used their first timeout. The couldn't stem the momentum, however, and the Huskers won the set 25-11 to finish the sweep with an Ostrander kill.

Nebraska hit .412 with 50 kills for the match to .088 and 24 kills for Grand Canyon. Kelsey Fien led the way with 14 kills and hit .406. Meghan Haggerty (.500), Mikaela Foecke (.538), and Kadie Rolfzen (.467) each added eight kills.

Three Huskers had double-digit digs, though Olivia Boender's 11 is most notable as she didn't play until late in the second set, so she essentially had 11 digs in one set. Justine Wong-Orantes had 13 digs and Kenzie Maloney added 11.

In the nightcap against Pitt, the Huskers started with a quick three points, but Pitt, who finished fifth in the ACC last year, fought back to tie the score at three. From there, Nebraska opened the lead up, eventually taking a 12-7 advantage and forcing the Panthers' first timeout.

Albrecht got two kills on the next two points, and Pittsburgh used their second timeout with the score 14-7 Big Red. The Huskers kept the pressure on and the offense running, and two Annika Albrecht aces gave the Huskers the 25-9 first set win.

The Huskers hit .333 in the first set and held the Panthers to -.054. While the Huskers only recorded two blocks, they turned back so many Pittsburgh attacks that frustration led to errors. Nebraska didn't have a service error in the set, and had two aces from Albrecht.

The second set started off tight like the first set, with the Huskers opening up a 6-3 lead, but eventually opening it up to 11-6, leading to Pittsburgh's first timeout of the set.

Things went slightly better for Pittsburgh after the timeout, as they closed the gap to three points, but an errant serve and an attack out of bounds pushed the Husker advantage back to five.

With the Huskers up 18-12, Pittsburgh grabbed some momentum and closed the gap to 19-17 before Coach Cook used his first timeout of the set.

Two kills by Kadie Rolfzen gave the Huskers a 21-17 advantage and led to the Panthers' second timeout of the set. The score never got closer, in fact the Huskers had a six-point advantage at one point, and a Mikaela Foecke kill closed the set 25-20 Huskers.

The Huskers hit .412 in the second set while Pitt hit a much-improved .250. Through two sets, both Kadie Rolfzen and Annika Albrecht had eight kills. Kelly Hunter and Mikaela Foecke had five apiece. The Huskers had 31 digs through two sets to 21 for the Panthers, with Sydney Townsend leading the way with 11.

The third set started close again, with teams trading points early, but Pittsburgh took control and opened up a 7-4 lead on Nebraska, leading to an early timeout for the Huskers.

The Panthers extended the lead out of the timeout, opening up a five-point advantage at 11-6. The Huskers briefly closed to within three, but then Pitt opened the lead to six points, 14-8, and Nebraska took their second and final timeout of the set.

The Huskers started to cut into the Panthers' lead, taking advantage of overpasses and Pitt errors, and with Pittsburgh still up 15-11, the Panthers took their first timeout of the set.

The Huskers continued to take advantage of errors by the Panthers and close the gap, eventually taking the lead 17-16 on a Cecilia Hall stuff block and forcing Pitt to use their second timeout of the set.

Pitt got two quick points out of the timeout, one on a Kadie Rolfzen serve in the net, to briefly re-take the lead, but then had their own service error to give serve back to the Huskers.

Pitt got the serve back and put together a four-point run to take the lead back, 21-18. Two straight Anni Albrecht kills and an Albrecht-Amber Rolfzen block tied the set up again at 21.

The teams traded points, with the score tied again at 22, 23, and 24. An overpass led to a Kadie Rolfzen kill, and gave the Huskers their first set point. However, Pitt tied the score again at 25.

A Kadie Rolfzen kill gave the Huskers set point again, but Pitt tied it again at 26. Pitt then earned their second set point up 27-26. An attack in the net by the Panthers tied it at 27. Pitt then took the serve back back, up 28-27 and won the set 29-27.

The Huskers outhit the Panthers .205 - .186 in the set, but three service errors to one for the Panthers told the story of the set.

The teams began the fourth set trading points again, with Coach Cook inserting Brooke Smith to serve for Amber Rolfzen early. He had inserted Alicia Ostrander in the same situation in the third set. Smith served into the net, and Ostrander looked lost on defense, so both switches led to Panther points.

The Huskers took their first lead of the fourth at 5-4 and opened it up to 6-4 before a Panther kill. Pitt then ran off four in a row, taking the lead 8-6 and leading to Meghan Haggerty being inserted into the match for Cecilia Hall. Pitt's serve went long, and an Amber Rolfzen/Mikaela Foecke block tied it at eight for the Big Red.

The teams traded points briefly until Pitt began to open up their lead again at 11-9. However, the Huskers tied it up with and Albrecht kill and an Amber Rolfzen/Kelly Hunter block.

The Huskers took the lead again with a Haggerty kill to make it 13-12, then Brooke Smith recorded her first ace to make it 14-12 Huskers. A Haggerty/Hunter block gave the Huskers a 15-12 lead at the media timeout.

Nebraska opened the lead up to 17-13 and Pittsburgh took their first timeout of the set. Meghan Haggerty solo blocked Pitt, and the Panthers used their second timeout of the set with the Huskers up 18-13.

Pitt had difficulty passing Hunter's serve and Nebraska opened the lead up to 19-13 before a net violation gave the serve to the Panthers. However Mikaela Foecke terminated the ball on the next point to give the serve back to the Huskers with the score 20-14 Big Red.

Pitt never closed the margin again, and the Huskers went on to win the set and match with an Amber Rolfzen kill, 25-19.

The win marked the 600th of Coach Cook's career.

For the match, the Huskers hit .278 to .103 for the Panthers. Nebraska had 65 kills to 43 for the Pitt Panthers. Annika Albrecht had a career high 18 kills on the night to hit .306, and Kadie Rolfzen added 17 to hit .351. Kelly Hunter added eight of her own and hit .211. The setter had 19 attempts.

The Huskers recorded 63 digs on the night, and Pitt had 56. Justine Wong-Orantes led all Huskers with 19 digs. Sydney Townsend had 15 and Kelly Hunter had 11. Albrecht recorded her second double-double of the season with 10 kills.

The Huskers blocked much better in the fourth set, recording four blocks to push the total to ten for the night. Pittsburgh had nine blocks, but only one in the fourth set. Amber Rolfzen and Mikaela Foecke each recorded four block assists for the Huskers, with Hall adding three assists and one solo block.

Serving was a struggle for the Huskers on the night, with six errors to only three aces.

The first match of the day is a tough one to use to gauge the team. GCU is in their fourth year competing in Division I sports, and is a program on their way up. The Huskers did show some resilience, coming back to make a statement after kind of coasting through the end of the first set. Coming back to win somewhat decisively in the fourth set against Pitt after giving up the third also gives the team hope for the season.

Kelly Hunter showed throughout the weekend that the stage in Devaney is not too big for her. She seemed comfortable and in total command of the offense. Two years learning has done big things for her.

The Husker block looks much better this year, though it was exposed a bit against Pittsburgh. Amber Rolfzen is quick and crafty getting to the ball, and she adds a great offensive weapon as well. Cecilia Hall has proven to be a great blocker though can be inconsistent offensively.

The offense just clicked all weekend. Foecke on the right side gives us yet another offensive weapon, and every hitter that played in the Nebraska Invitational proved she had great acumen when it came to not only placing shots, but absolutely smashing the attacks.

Really, the offense is a story in and of itself. The competition this weekend isn't what we'll see in the B1G, but shots were well-placed AND powerful. We'll see better blocking from the likes of Penn State, Wisconsin, and Minnesota (and, ya know, most of the rest of the conference...), but this offense is just phenomenal.