The Saturday matinee of the 2016 Nebraska Invite paired the #1-ranked Nebraska Huskers against the Oregon State Beavers at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln. Nebraska quickly took care of business, sweeping Oregon State 25-16, 25-14, 25-12.
The match started off looking as though the theme from last night would continue with Kelly Hunter smoking the opening serve well out of bounds. Like the first two sets against Iowa State, the Huskers found themselves down 0-3 early before a Foecke kill earned the first Nebraska point of the day. However, Oregon State took the serve back and opened up a 6-1 lead on the Huskers.
After a Malloy kill, the Huskers seemed to settle down a bit. The team looked sloppy early with a couple of communication errors, one of which resulted in Amber and Kadie Rolfzen pushing one another into the net, and a lack of a connection between Hunter and her attackers led to a slow start for the Big Red.
The Huskers fought their way back in to the set, finally tying it with an Amber Rolfzen block at eight apiece. Hunter took the attack into her own hands, dumping for a kill to earn Nebraska their first lead of the day. The score stayed tight, with the Huskers opening a three point lead at 15-12 when Briana Holman and Kadie Rolfzen combined for a block going in to the media timeout.
OSU closed to within a point on a drawn out review for the Beavers. The initial call was and attack error by the outside hitter, but Beaver Head Coach Mark Barnard challenged the call believing that Kadie Rolfzen had touched it. The review took much longer than the Devaney crowd liked, but ultimately was successful, and made the score 16-15 Huskers.
It was all Huskers the rest of the way in the first set as Nebraska scored the next two points and forced an Oregon State timeout. The Huskers scored the next point, and then Kadie Rolfzen served two straight aces to open the lead to 21-15 Huskers and forced the second Beaver timeout. Nothing changed out of the timeout, and the Huskers closed on a 9-1 run to finish off the set 21-16.
Set two opened with Andie Malloy absolutely burying the first ball and the Huskers quickly opened up a 7-2 lead and forced the first Oregon State timeout early. Nebraska took the first point out of the timeout before the Beavers sided out. After exchanging sideouts again, Oregon State used a 4-0 run to close to 9-7. Nebraska used their first timeout of the day to stop the run.
After that, the teams briefly traded points to 13-10 before Nebraska began to pull away. A three-point Husker run made the Big Red’s advantage 16-10 and led to the second Beaver timeout of the set. The Beavers closed the margin to 16-12, but the Huskers again closed with a strong run, 9-2, to take the second set 25-14.
The third set was Huskers all the way. Olivia Boender played in lieu of Andie Malloy and it sparked the arena. In his press conference, Cook mentioned that she’s hungry for playing time and has earned it in practice. Frankly, she looked great in the match as well. Oregon State took the first point, but Boender buried the next ball, sparking a 5-0 Husker run and an early 5-1 Nebraska lead.
Beaver Coach Mark Barnard took a timeout with the score 8-3 Nebraska, but it was more of the same after the timeout. The Huskers opened up a 14-6 margin on the Beavers forcing the second and final timeout of the set for Oregon State.
Oregon state never got to within eight the rest of the set and the Huskers took the set 25-12.
For the second straight night, no Husker hitter had double-digit kills, with Hunter being able to distribute the ball all over the net. Both Rolfzens had eight kills with Mikaela Foecke and Andie Malloy each recording seven. Kelly Hunter had the best hitting percentage of the night, with .857. However, Mikaela Foecke was the best of the hitters with a .545.
The Huskers far outdug the Beavers, 43-29. Libero Justine Wong-Orantes had 12 digs with Kelly Hunter recording 10.
Defense was very much the story of the day for the Huskers. While nine is not a gaudy block number, not many of the Oregon State attacks passed the net without being touched. It seemed that the Husker block was getting in the Beaver attackers’ heads as in the third set, Oregon State’s middle blocker Serena Bruin had an unblocked swing, but missed deep out of bounds.
The Huskers’ serving was much improved on Saturday as well. The Huskers committed 13 service errors on Friday against Iowa State, but cut that number to four against OSU. The Huskers also had four aces.
The battle for the outside hitter position opposite Foecke could get interesting. Malloy has seemed to struggle to terminate her attacks, while Boender has stepped in during the last two matches and had success. Of course, the crowd loves the local kid (Boender’s from Waverly, Nebraska), but Coach Cook will find the right fit. Right now, the Huskers are the prohibitive favorite to bring home the National Title again.