Continuing with the new policy of travel partners playing twice in the same week, the #4 Nebraska Husker volleyball team took on the University of Iowa Hawkeyes twice this week, sweeping the Hawkeyes in Iowa City on Wednesday 25-23, 25-20, 25-23, and sweeping them at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in front of the white out on Saturday night 25-10, 25-21, 25-18.
The Huskers opened up an early 4-1 lead in the first and held the lead about three points for quite awhile. Early in the set Iowa Coach Bond Shymansky challenged a serve that was ruled in and won the challenge, but that was about all the excitement that was generated in the first set as Nebraska cruised easily 25-10. The set ended on a 13-1 Husker run.
The Huskers hit .667 in the first set while recording five blocks. Iowa hit .071 with no blocks. The Huskers didn't commit a single hitting error in the first set. Mikaela Foecke led the way with five kills on eight attempts and Amber Rolfzen added four kills on five swings.
The Hawkeyes kept it tight early in the second set, maintaining a one-point lead early. The Huskers took the lead at 5-4 and opened it up to 12-6, forcing a Hawkeye timeout. The Hawkeyes briefly closed the deficit to four, 13-9, but the Huskers won the next two to take a 15-9 advantage.
Another brief Iowa run closed the gap to 15-11, but with the score 17-11 Nebraska, Iowa used their second timeout of the set.
A net violation and an attack error by the Huskers allowed the Hawkeyes to close the gap back down to four. Iowa then further closed the gap, to 18-16 Huskers, and forced Coach Cook to use his first timeout of the night.
Nebraska won a hard-fought point out of the timeout to widen the gap to three and maintained that briefly, but Iowa closed it back to two at 23-21. However a Foecke kill gave the Huskers set point, and a second Foecke kill sealed the set 25-21.
The Huskers hit .100 in the set with ten errors, but added three more blocks. Iowa hit .029 in the set, but added four blocks. After two sets, Amber Rolfzen led the Huskers with nine kills, hitting .615.
The Huskers won the first three points of the third set and slowly extended the lead, pushing it to 15-7 at the media timeout.
A 5-1 Iowa run, highlighted by another successful Shymansky challenge, led to the first Husker timeout of the set with the score 16-12 Nebraska.
Iowa won the first point out of the timeout on a Kadie Rolfzen attack wide, but gave it back with a service error. The Hawkeyes kept the margin at three to four, but a Boender kill opened up a five-point lead for the Big Red. Another Boender kill made it a 23-17 Husker lead and resulted in Iowa's first timeout of the set.
Nebraska won the first point out of the timeout, and after giving up a point to the Hawkeyes, won the set 25-18, completing the sweep of the night and the week.
The Huskers came back down to Earth and ended up hitting .292 on the night. Amber Rolfzen hit .556 to lead the Huskers in percentage and kills with 11. Kadie Rolfzen had 10 kills and hit .381. Iowa hit .077 for the night.
Nebraska had 45 digs, led by Justine Wong-Orantes' ten, to 38 for the Hawkeyes. After only recording five blocks in Iowa City on Wednesday, the Huskers racked up ten total on Saturday night, with two solo blocks and 16 assisted blocks.
So far this season, the Huskers have minimized errors in the service game. The Huskers only had three errors on the night to six for Iowa, which is a great improvement over the recent past. Having four players, Wong-Orantes, Townsend, Maloney, and Albrecht, who specialize in the back row helps that immensely. The only players playing all the way around right now are Kadie Rolfzen and Kelly Hunter.
The biggest improvement over last season for the Huskers continues to be blocking. Moving Amber to middle and Kadie to right side has shored up a block that was porous at best in the past. Blocking will be key if the Huskers hope to compete for a B1G, and ultimately national, title.