The #1-ranked Nebraska Huskers Women’s Volleyball Team spent Thanksgiving Eve in Minneapolis playing #2 Minnesota to take the inside track for the as the outright B1G champions. The Huskers dropped a heartbreaker 2-3 (25-21, 25-22, 26-28, 17-25, 15-17).
Briana Holman made a statement off the bat, burying her first swing of the night and give the Huskers the early lead.
Minnesota then scored two to take a 2-1 lead, but the Huskers fought back with Kadie Rolfzen serving to take a 7-3 lead on a 5-0 run and force Minnesota to take their first timeout of the set early.
Minnesota capitalized out of the timeout to stop the Husker run and make the score 7-4 Nebraska.
Minnesota closed the gap to two at 10-8 after Nebraska held the four-point advantage for awhile, but the Huskers quickly opened it up again to 12-8, owing in part to a Hunter ace.
The Gophers didn’t let the Huskers get far, though, and closed the score to 12-10, a two-point gap once again.
A long rally at 13-11 Huskers ended with a Paige Tapp kill for the Gophers and led to Nebraska using their first timeout of the set up 13-12.
Kadie Rolfzen got the point for Nebraska out of the timeout and put Justine Wong-Orantes on the service line. Kadie and her sister Amber combined to block the next Minnesota attack to give the Huskers a 15-12 lead.
The advantage didn’t last long, though, as Minnesota used a 3-0 run to tie the match at 15. A long rally led to a Kadie Rolfzen kill, but Minnesota Coach Hugh McCutcheon challenged the point, arguing that a Minnesota block was not a block, but rather a Husker attack into the net.
The review was a long one, but worth it for Minnesota, as the call was overturned and the score corrected to 16-15 Minnesota, extending the Gopher run.
Minnesota scored again to take a 17-15 lead, but the Huskers rode Andie Malloy to fight back into it and take a 19-18 lead.
The Huskers held the advantage and couldn’t quite shake Minnesota until a Kadie Rolfzen kill made the score 23-21 Huskers. Minnesota used their second, and final, timeout of the set to try to salvage the set.
The Huskers took the point out of the timeout, then a Mikaela Foecke ace capped a 5-1 run for the Huskers, giving them the first set 25-21.
The first set was punctuated regularly by long rallies. Both teams played fantastic defense, which made the hitters have to get creative to earn the points.
Kelly Hunter started the second set serving out of bounds, the fifth error for the Huskers in the match. Kadie Rolfzen made good on it, though, tying the score at one apiece.
Minnesota took a 4-3 lead on a ball hit out of bounds, but was called a Nebraska touch. However, Coach Cook challenged and won, the ball was not touched by the Husker defense and Nebraska took the 4-3 lead.
The Huskers held the lead briefly, but Minnesota flipped the one-point advantage at 7-6 and the Gophers opened it up to 10-8.
With the score 12-10 Minnesota, the Huskers looked completely disconnected, sending two free balls in the rally that started with the Huskers struggling to return serve. Minnesota won the point that the Huskers in no way deserved and Nebraska called timeout trailing 13-10.
Minnesota opened the lead up to 15-10 before the Huskers put together a 3-0 run to to close to 15-13.
The Gophers pushed the lead to 21-17 which led to the Huskers’ final timeout of the second set.
Nebraska came out of the timeout and scored two straight to make the score 21-19 Minnesota and force the first Gopher timeout of the set.
Andie Malloy converted a tough ball out of the timeout and Minnesota hit a ball out of bounds to allow the Huskers to tie the set at 21.
Minnesota staunched the bleeding, scoring the subsequent point to take the 22-21 lead, but Nebraska scored the next two to retake the lead 23-22 and force Minnesota’s second timeout of the set. Nebraska was riding a 6-1 run.
The Husker block made the score 24-22 and gave the Huskers the set point. The Huskers capitalized and rode a 8-1 run to win the set.
Set 3 started with a challenge after Nebraska was awarded the opening point, Minnesota challenged, contending that Wong-Orantes had failed to get the serve up. The officials agreed with the Gophers, and Minnesota was given the 1-0 lead.
Minnesota made it 2-0 before the Huskers registered their first point of the set.
Nebraska tied the set at four, but took the their first lead of the set at 5-4. The Gophers had a rough serve-receive on the following point and the Husker block made the score 6-4 Huskers. Coach Hugh McCutcheon took the first Minnesota timeout of the set as Nebraska was riding a 4-0 run to take a 6-4 lead.
Two straight Gopher points tied the score at six, but an Amber Rolfzen kill gave the Huskers the 7-6 lead.
The teams traded sideouts until a Mikaeal Foecke kill made the score 14-12 Huskers. Annika Albrecht followed that up with a serve that trickled over the net for the ace, giving the Huskers the 15-12 lead.
Nebraska couldn’t hold the lead for long, as Minnesota tied the score up at 15 on a poorly timed slide between Kelly Hunter and Amber Rolfzen, which resulted in the first Husker timeout of the set.
Minnesota took a 16-15 lead, but the Huskers took the next two to take the lead back, 17-16.
The Gophers answered back with a 3-0 run to take a 19-17 lead, but it was again short-lived as the Huskers ran off three of their own to take the 20-19 lead, forcing the final Minnesota timeout of the set.
Briana Holman converted out of the timeout to extend the Husker run to 4-0 and the lead to 21-19.
Nebraska extended the lead to 22-19 before Minnesota could score again, but the Huskers took the serve back immediately with the 23-20 advantage.
The Gophers wouldn’t go away quietly however and fought back to tie the score at 23 and a big Gopher block gave Minnesota their first set point 24-23 and force the Husker timeout, their last of the set.
Again out of the timeout, Briana Holman converted the point, bouncing it off the head of the Minnesota blocker to tie the score at 24, then the Huskers got their first match point, 25-24.
Minnesota tied the score at 25, and then Minnesota blocked Amber Rolfzen to take the 26-25 lead and take their second set point, but the Huskers tied the score at 26.
The next point fell Minnesota’s way to give them the 27-26 advantage, and a sloppy Husker point gave Minnesota the set 28-26.
The momentum stayed on Minnesota’s side to start the fourth set as Minnesota took a 5-0 lead to force an early Nebraska timeout.
Kadie Rolfzen got the kill out of the timeout to stop the Gopher run, but a Malloy error on the next point gave the ball back to Minnesota.
While Minnesota looked really good early in the set, opening the lead to 9-2 and making the Huskers burn their second timeout early, the Huskers were sloppy and all over the place. In an attempt to get a point to stop the Minnesota run, the Huskers were not sticking to the things that had been successful.
Kadie Rolfzen had her third kill, and the third Husker point of the set, out of the timeout which put her on the service line. A great serve by Kadie led to an easy kill for the Huskers to make the score 9-4 Gophers.
The Huskers could not seem to answer the Gophers. Nebraska continued to make mistakes and give up points to the Gophers by not communicating effectively and looking generally lost. Minnesota opened the lead to as much as eight points as late as 15-7.
Nebraska closed the gap to 15-10 Gophers, but Minnesota pushed it to 18-11 which saw Olivia Boender inserted for Andie Malloy.
Boender did convert on her first swing, but Minnesota kept the pressure on the Huskers and didn’t let Nebraska get close again, in fact opening the lead to nine at 22-13. Minnesota closed the set out 25-17.
The decisive fifth set was a strong start for Minnesota again, earning the first two points before a big Husker block gave the ball to the Huskers.
Minnesota then took a 4-1 lead before a Husker sideout made the score 4-2 Minnesota. However, the Gophers took the next point.
While it looked early like this was going to be a repeat of the fourth set, the Huskers dug deep and ran off three straight to tie the score at five and force the first Minnesota timeout of the set.
The Golden Gophers scored the first two points out of the timeout to take the lead back, 7-5, and force the first Husker timeout of the fifth set.
Kelly Hunter notched a kill out of the timeout to close to 7-6, but Minnesota tooled the Husker block to make the score 8-6 as the teams switched sides.
Minnesota took the 9-6 lead on the next point, but an Amber Rolfzen block scored the next point for the Huskers.
Because the Huskers stuck around, Minnesota could not easily close out the game. Minnesota had a 12-9 lead, but Nebraska closed the score to 12-11 and forced the final Minnesota timeout of the set.
Amber Rolfzen got the set on the next point but her swing hit the next and rolled out of bounds to give the Gophers the 13-11 lead and force the Huskers to use their final timeout of the set.
The Huskers fought back to tie the score at 13 on an Andie Malloy kill. Minnesota challenged the call, arguing that the attack hit the antenna. The call was upheld, and Nebraska kept the serve.
Minnesota used an off-speed attack to the corner to earn their first match point, 14-13.
The Gopher serve sailed long and gave the serve to the Huskers with Annika Albrecht on the line. It was a drawn-out point that Minnesota won to earn their second match point.
A Foecke/Amber Rolfzen block tied the score at 15, but Sydney Townsend missed her serve to give Minnesota another match point which they converted, taking the set 17-15.
The Gophers outhit the Huskers .200 to .186. The Huskers were led by Kadie Rolfzen with 20 kills on the night to hit .333. Briana Holman added 11 kills and hit .267.
Minnesota had 100 digs for the night. Yeah, you read that right, 100. Hitting triple digits in digs in a match is very, VERY uncommon. The Huskers had 86 digs, led by 26 from Justine Wong-Orantes. Kadie Rolfzen had 10 digs to record a double-double.
Nebraska had 15 blocks on the night to 10 for Minnesota. Minnesota, however, only had one block through the first two sets, so their late push at the net played a significant role in the turnaround for the Gophers.
This match turned late in the third set. The Huskers essentially had the match won, but Minnesota fought back to take that set and then absolutely dominate the fourth. As Minnesota ran away with the fourth set, the Huskers were doing anything they could to earn a point, but as so often happens, that puts other players out of place and the team has trouble running points together.
It’s important to remember in the disappointment of this loss that Minnesota is the #2 team in the country, and this match was in Minneapolis. Nebraska still has a path to the outright title if they can knock off Michigan and Minnesota beats Wisconsin. That match will be in Minneapolis. The Huskers need only to win on Saturday to claim part of the title.
The Huskers wrap up the regular season at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln Saturday night at 7:00 Central against #18 Michigan for Senior Night. That game will be televised on NET and BTN2Go.