Wednesday night, the #1 Nebraska Huskers Women’s Volleyball team played host to the #15 Penn State Nittany Lions in only the Huskers’ third Wednesday night match of the season. Nebraska made quick work of Penn State on a late night 3-0 (25-17, 25-14, 25-22).
The match started with the teams exchanging points, with Penn State holding the single point advantage after taking the first point, until Mikaela Foecke recorded a solo block to give the Huskers their first lead, 6-5. The teams went back and forth one more time after that, but Nebraska ran three points together to make the score 9-6 Huskers and force a Penn State timeout.
The next point was initially awarded to the Huskers, but Nittany Lion Head Coach Russ Rose immediately challenged, saying that the Penn State block had not touched the attack, and the video proved him correct, making the score 9-7 Huskers.
Penn State closed it to 9-8 and then tied it at 10 on a double-block of a Kadie Rolfzen swing.
The score didn’t stay that tight for long though, as the Huskers used a three-point run again to open the lead to 13-10.
From that point on, the teams traded sideouts until the score was 17-14 Huskers. Kelly Hunter kept the Huskers on serve with a setter dump to the middle of the Penn State defense that made the score 18-14 Huskers and led to the second Nittany Lion timeout of the set.
Penn State came out of the timeout and showed that they weren’t done, taking the next two points to narrow the Husker lead to two, 18-16 Huskers. However, Foecke drilled a ball from the right pin that found the floor and gave the Huskers the 19-16 lead and put Foecke back on the service line.
From that point the set was all Nebraska. Foecke held serve with the Huskers capitalizing on Penn State hitting errors. With the team out of timeouts, the Nittany Lions were subbing players in and out to have some shot of slowing the momentum, but it was not to be as the Huskers took the set on a 7-1 run, 25-17.
The Huskers dominated the net play in the first set hitting .324 to .026 for Penn State. Briana Holman had four kills on five swings to hit .800 and Foecke added five kills on ten swings with one error to hit .400.
Penn State actually recorded two blocks to one for the Huskers in the first, with Foecke’s solo block early the only Husker block, though they sent a lot of attacks back at the net that didn’t find the floor.
While Penn State scored first in the second set, over pass kills and blocks gave the Huskers an early 5-1 lead.
Though Penn State stopped the Husker run at 5-0, the Huskers took serve right back and got another to make the score 7-2. Penn State had a 2-0 run of their own to close to 7-4, but the Huskers took the momentum back and re-opened the five-point advantage, 9-4. Penn State then used their first timeout of the second set.
The subsequent Nebraska serve fell out of bounds, but the Nittany Lions couldn’t keep serve, and the Huskers put together 5-0 run with Annika Albrecht on the line to take a 14-5 lead.
The remainder of the set was almost all Nebraska, as Penn State couldn’t seem to find a way to go on a run. Penn State called a timeout trailing 20-10, but Nebraska managed to extend the lead to as much as 12 and ultimately seal the set, winning it 25-14.
The Huskers had five blocks in the second set, including a solo block by Andie Malloy, to hold the Nittany Lions to -.065 hitting for the set while hitting .324. Holman and Foecke continued to pace the Huskers with seven blocks apiece hitting .778 and .235 respectively.
The Huskers scored the first point of the third set, and Penn State answered to tie the score again. However, Nebraska notched the next two to take an early 3-1 lead. The teams then traded sideouts before an Andie Malloy kill made the score 5-2 Huskers.
Penn State closed to within one at 5-4, but Nebraska then extended the lead to three once again at 8-5.
That lead didn’t last for long, though, as Penn State found some rhythm and took the lead at 11-10, forcing the first Husker timeout of the set.
The Huskers tied the score out of the timeout, but Penn State earned the next two points to take a 13-11 lead.
Nebraska tied the score with the visitors at 14 and took the 15-14 lead on a Kadie Rolfzen kill out of the back row.
From that point, the teams traded sideouts with Nebraska clinging to the advantage until an Amber Rolfzen slide attack missed the sideline and gave Penn State the 22-21 lead. That led to the Huskers’ final timeout of the second set trailing by one.
Andie Malloy scored to tie it at 22 out of the timeout, putting Albrecht back to serve. Penn State called their first timeout of the second set immediately with the score tied.
Penn State missed long out of the timeout, giving Nebraska the 23-22 lead. Foecke then used the top of the block to give Nebraska matchpoint and force Penn State’s second timeout of the set.
Albrecht took care of business out of the timeout with an ace to give the set to the Huskers 25-22 and complete the sweep.
The Huskers hit .290 to .065 for the Nittany Lions. Both outside hitters were in the double digits. Andie Malloy hit .400 with eleven kills while Foecke had 10 kills and hit .292, but Briana Holman had eight kills on thirteen swings with no errors to hit .615. Amber Rolfzen hit .500.
Defensively, Nebraska outblocked and outdug Penn State. Nebraska had nine blocks, led by five block assists from Amber Rolfzen, to Penn State’s five. Kelly Hunter had 15 of Nebraska’s 54 digs while Annika Albrecht added 10. Penn State had 43 digs in the three sets. Nebraska’s defense limited Penn State to 28 kills on the night. Coach Cook said that the defense allowed the Huskers to win the dig-hit battle against Penn State.
On a night when it took Kadie Rolfzen until the last set to hit in the positive numbers, the rest of the attackers picked up the slack. The middles and the outsides came alive tonight with both middles at or above .500. It was good to see the offense working so well at almost all positions. Lately it seems that it’s either the middle or the outside carrying the team.
The Huskers seem to be really hitting their stride here down the stretch. Yes, the Huskers have looked great all year, but the team looks really good right now. The Huskers close out at Iowa, at #2 Minnesota, then home against #18 Michigan, which will prep the team well for the post-season.
The Huskers travel to Iowa City to take on the Iowa Hawkeyes Saturday night at 8:00 PM Central. The match will air on BTNPlus ($$).