The weeekend was an exciting on at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln. The #8 Husker Women’s Volleyball Team welcomed the #3 Minnesota Golden Gophers and the #7 Wisconsin Badgers. The Huskers made quick work of the Gophers, but struggled early before decisively finishing off the Badgers.
The Friday 6 PM match pitted the Huskers against the #3 Minnesota Golden Gophers on a night that featured Husker legend Jordan Larson’s jersey retirement. Nebraska swept Minnesota 25-21, 25-18, 25-13.
The match was entirely dominated by the Huskers. The only category where the Huskers didn’t decisively best the Gophers was in blocks, where each team had seven. The Huskers outdug, outhit, and outserved the Gophers.
Four Huskers were in double-digits for kills for the night with Senior Annika Albrecht (.267), Senior Briana Holman (.500), and Freshman Lauren Stivrins (.526) each scoring eleven and Junior Mikaela Foecke (.207) adding ten. Nebraska hit .301 for the night while holding Minnesota to .183
Lauren Stivrins led the Huskers at the net with five total blocks, one solo and four assisted. The team had seven blocks. The back row defense also played a huge part in holding down the Gopher attack. Three Huskers had double-digit digs with Foecke and Senior Setter Kelly Hunter digging ten swings and Junior Libero Kenzie Maloney getting twelve.
Even serving was about as good as Coach John Cook could ask for on the night they honored a Husker great. The Huskers had five aces and only one error for the night with five different Huskers getting an ace.
Saturday night was a much tougher night for the Big Red, but the team came out on top of a tough-fought five set match 3-2 (22-25, 17-25, 25-20, 25-23, 15-8) as they knocked off the #7 Wisconsin Badgers.
Stats from the match were as closely matched as the score. Wisconsin just edged out Nebraska hitting .194 to the Huskers’ .193. Albrecht led all Husker attackers with 50 swings and 18 kills. She hit .240, which also led the team. Briana Holman added 13 kills and hit .207 and Mikaela Foecke hit .195 with 15 kills.
The Huskers had ten blocks to eleven by Wisconsin. Stivrins had five blocks total, one solo, while Holman added four, two solo. Four Huskers had double-digit digs to help the Husker defense score 71 digs against 68 from Wisconsin. Senior DS Sydney Townsend had 17 digs, Maloney had 13, Albrecht had 12, and Kelly Hunter had 11.
Nebraska scored their first set point of the match with the score 24-15 in the third set, but struggled to close the set out. Wisconsin switched the momentum late in that set, and Devaney seemed tense, wondering if that late momentum would translate to a 3-1 Wisconsin win, as the Badgers had pretty well handled the Huskers through the first two. While the fourth set was tight, that Nebraska win set up the Huskers’ romp in the decider.
If Husker fans have anything to continue to keep an eye on, it’s the connection between Stivrins and Hunter. While it is phenomenal when it’s good, it’s still problematic from time to time. I’d expect that the coaching staff will continue to work on that and we’ll see it come to near flawlessness as the season goes on.
It would be appropriate to expect a step back at some point with this team. Not permanent, but more of a hiccup. There are a lot of freshman playing major roles with Stivrins, Outside Hitter Jazz Sweet, and DS Hayley Densberger. This team has looked really solid since Hunter came back from injury, but the B1G is the best conference in the nation for volleyball, and there isn’t a chance to rest.
Michigan State comes to the Devaney Center on Wednesday, October 4th for a 7 PM match that will be televised on NET and BTN2Go. Michigan State worked their way in to the top 25 by going to Minneapolis and Madison and knocking off the same two teams the Huskers just beat. The Spartans and the Huskers are the only two unbeaten teams left in the conference.
After that, the Huskers have three straight matches on the road. Saturday, October 7 the Huskers play the Hawkeyes in Iowa City at 7 PM. Nebraska plays Wisconsin again on Wednesday, October 11 at 8 PM in a match that will be on BTN and BTN2Go. The last of the three matches on the road will be at Purdue at 6:00 PM on Saturday, October 14.