In what has been a rare occurrence this season, the Huskers had a mid-week home match against the Iowa Hawkeyes at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln. Nebraska swept the Hawkeyes 25-14, 25-18, 26-24.
The Huskers scored the first point, but Iowa went on a 4-1 run to open up a quick 4-2 lead. A Kadie Rolfzen kill and a Justine Wong-Orantes ace tied the score at four.
The Huskers then took their first lead at 6-5, and opened it up to 13-8 fairly quickly and carried the five-point advantage into the media timeout, up 15-10.
Nebraska went on a 4-1 run after the media timeout to take a 19-11 lead and force Iowa’s first timeout of the set. The Huskers took the lead to 21-12 and then were awarded the next point, but it was overturned on the Iowa challenge making the score 21-13 Huskers.
After the challenge, it was all Huskers. Iowa took a timeout with the score 23-13 Huskers, but the Huskers took the set 25-14.
Nebraska hit .467 to .133 for Iowa in the first set. The Huskers were led by five kills from Briana Holman who hit .500. Amber Rolfzen was a perfect four for four to hit 1.000. The Huskers also score three blocks to the Hawkeyes’ one.
Set two started similarly to set one, with Iowa taking the initial lead, 4-1, which led to Coach John Cook’s first timeout of the set.
Briana Holman recorded a decisive kill out of the timeout, then combined with Kadie Rolfzen to block the next two Iowa attacks and tie the score at four. Kenzie Maloney served the next ball long to halt the Huskers’ run.
Briana Holman, however, was responsible for a fourth-straight Husker point to tie the score again at five.
The teams traded points to 10-10, but at that point, the Husker attacks started to find the floor, with the Huskers opening up a 15-10 lead the resulted in a Hawkeye timeout.
Nebraska was riding a 6-0 run into the timeout, and Foecke definitively put one down out of the timeout to extend the run to 7-0 and the score to 16-10. On the next rally, Iowa overpassed right to Kadie Rolfzen, but her attack just missed, and made the score 16-11 Huskers.
With the score 19-12 Huskers, Iowa began a run of their own. However, the run was short-lived at 2-0 when Andie Malloy found the corner for the Husker point, making the score 20-14 Huskers.
The Huskers maintained their advantage, forcing Iowa to call timeout with the score 22-15 Huskers to try and salvage the second set.
Nebraska led 23-17 when Iowa battled to keep the ball alive and tried to send a free ball over. The line judge and down official both determined the ball was outside (or above) the antenna, which is considered out of bounds. The point was initially awarded, thus, to the Huskers, but Iowa Coach Bond Shymansky challenged the call, arguing that it, in fact, crossed inside the antenna. The review did not show conclusive evidence, so the call was allowed to stand. Coach Shymansky continued to argue his point with the down official, drawing the ire of the Devaney Center crowd, and delaying the first Husker set point.
Iowa capitalized and scored the next point, but Foecke used an off-speed shot to the middle of the Hawkeye side of the court to seal the set for the Huskers 25-18.
The Huskers hitting was down in the second set, hitting .174, but the Hawkeyes could only manage -.022. Briana Holman and Mikaela Foecke both had four kills in the set and were hitting .333 and .267 respectively at the intermission. Nebraska added three more blocks to bring their total to seven, while Iowa also had three more, bringing their total to four.
Point one in the third set went to the Huskers, but unlike the two previous, Iowa could not pull away. The Huskers had the one-point advantage until an attack by Andie Malloy traveled long, giving Iowa the 4-3 lead. However, the players on the court quickly turned to Coach Cook, imploring that he challenge the call, claiming a touch by the Hawkeyes. It was hard to discern from the reviews shown on the big screen whether or not there was a touch, so the call was allowed to stand.
Traditional volleyball wisdom is composed almost entirely of the phrase “The Ball Never Lies” and the subsequent Iowa serve found the bottom of the net, tying the score at four.
Iowa, however, took the next three points, capitalizing on Husker errors, to open a 7-4 lead on the Big Red before Amber Rolfzen terminated, her seventh of the night.
Iowa held the momentum and opened the lead to 9-5 before Kelly Hunter dumped into the midst of the Hawkeye defense to put Sydney Townsend on the service line.
Nebraska closed to within two with the Hawkeyes up 9-7, but Iowa ran off two more points to make the advantage 11-7 Iowa and force a Nebraska timeout.
Nebraska used a 3-0 run to close to within one with Iowa up 11-10 and force the first Hawkeye timeout of the set.
Iowa ended the Husker run out of the timeout, making their advantage 12-10 over Nebraska. Nebraska then took the next two points to tie the set at 12.
Nebraska re-took the lead at 14-13 and extended it to 17-13 before Iowa could staunch the Husker run.
Though the Huskers held the lead buy as much as four again at 20-16, the Hawkeyes wouldn’t go away quietly, closing the Husker lead to one at 20-19 which led to the Huskers second and final timeout of the set.
Iowa still wouldn’t go away, tying the score at 22 late and again at 23. Kadie Rolfzen earned the Huskers their first matchpoint at 24-23, but Iowa used their final timeout of the set.
Iowa guaranteed extra volleyball by tying the score at 24, but a missed Hawkeye serve and a Malloy kill sealed the win for the Huskers 26-24.
The Huskers hit .284 for the match to .108 for the Hawkeyes. Holman was the only Husker with double-digit kills, recording 12 and hitting .409. Amber Rolfzen had nine kills on fourteen swings with no errors to hit .643 so it was another spectacular night for the Husker middle attack.
Defensively, the Huskers had 10 blocks to five for Iowa, and 46 digs against 42. Both Amber Rolfzen and Kadie Rolfzen were part of five blocks for the Huskers, with Briana Holman contributing on four. Justine Wong-Orantes had 12 digs to add to her Husker record, but was outdone on this night by Kadie’s 14.
The third set did not look nearly as clean for the Huskers as the first two. It almost looked as though the result was a foregone conclusion, and Iowa nearly took advantage. Iowa led a good part of the set and, even when the Huskers were up, the Hawkeyes wouldn’t quit and forced overtime.
In the last week, the Huskers have won a hard-fought five-set match against Penn State, rolled through Rutgers, and probably let Iowa hang around a little too long. In those matches we’ve seen how dynamic this offense can be, hitting from wherever they’re hot, be it the middle or the pins. This Iowa match will likely go down as an anomaly, but more consistency through the rest of the season would put a lot of minds at ease entering the tournament.
The Huskers play at Indiana on Saturday at 6:00 PM Central in a match that will be available on BTNPlus ($$) and then at home next Wednesday against Penn State. The Penn State match will be an 8:00 PM Central and televised on BTN.