Friday night saw the #7 Nebraska Huskers Women’s Volleyball Team return to the Bob Devaney Sports Center after three road tests. The Huskers hosted the Northwestern Wildcats on Friday night. Nebraska made quick work of Northwestern 3-0 (25-20, 25-15, 25-12).
Northwestern struck first, but Nebraska answered back immediately and Wildcat errors had the teams trading points early. However, Northwestern took a 4-2 lead early in set one.
Really, Northwestern came out strong, issuing an early statement to the Huskers that they were not going to be a doormat. The Wildcats came in receiving votes in the AVCA Coaches’ Poll , and played like they wanted to be in the rankings, taking a 6-3 lead early.
Nebraska tied the score at eight at the start of their second rotation, with the opening server, Annika Albrecht back on the service line. A clever, deceptive play by Kelly Hunter for a kill on the next point made the score 9-8 Nebraska and resulted in a Northwestern timeout.
Albrecht’s serve out of the timeout missed and the score tied at nine again. The Huskers took the next point, but the ceded another to Northwestern for a 10-10 score.
The margin didn’t change, with Nebraska holding a sideout advantage, until Northwestern took a 14-13, then 15-13 lead.
Again the teams stayed stationary, with the teams trading points and Northwestern holding a two-point advantage on their serve. The stalemate was finally broken by a Mikaela Foecke ace to tie the score at 19.
Foecke ended a long rally on the next point with an attack out of the back row that found the floor in the left-back corner of the Wildcat defense to put the Huskers on top again, 20-19. Northwestern then took their second and final timeout of the set.
Jazz Sweet kept the Husker run alive, burying a ball through the seam in the Wildcat block. The next point went Nebraska’s way when the Northwestern block got the net.
Briana Holman got in on the action on the next point, putting the ball between the Northwestern block and the net. Sweet again earned the next point to give Nebraska their first set point.
Foecke hit her serve long, but Northwestern returned the favor on the next serve, though it was in the net, and the Huskers took set one on a 9-2 run, finishing it off 25-20.
The Husker offense started slow, but ended up hitting .375 in the first set, led by five kills from Sweet on ten attempts with no errors. Kelly Hunter hit .750 with three kills and Foecke and Holman had identical .400 numbers with three kills on five attempts.
Foecke started the scoring off in set two with a sharp cross. Holman put the Huskers up 2-0 by smoking a slide attack down the line. Kenzie Maloney got in the scoring with an ace in front of the Northwestern libero.
Another Foecke termination put the Big Red up 4-0 and forced an early Wildcat timeout.
The Huskers had a 5-0 lead before a sloppy set by Hunter gave Northwestern their first point of the set.
Nebraska widened the gap to a six-point advantage with Hayley Densberger serving, 9-3, but Northwestern answered with two of their own to return to the five-point status quo.
An ace by the Wildcats’ libero closed the score to 11-8 Huskers, but they couldn’t get any closer, their next attack not clearing the net and resulting in a four-hit violation on Northwestern.
The next shot saw Foecke go off-speed down the line to the corner to push the Husker advantage to five again. At that point, the Wildcats used their final timeout of the set with the Huskers up 13-8.
The Huskers began to open the lead up again with a Jazz Sweet kill and a Foecke ace late in the set. At that point, they pushed the lead to 18-10 before Northwestern could sideout.
Lauren Stivrins got her first kill of the match on an errant dig by the Wildcats. Her redirect gave the Huskers a 21-12 lead. Albrecht put a roll shot across court in front of the entire Northwestern defense to take a 22-12 lead.
After a Wildcat sideout, another Albrecht kill maintained the advantage for the Huskers. The teams traded sideouts the rest of the way, giving the Huskers the 25-15 set victory.
The Huskers hit .432 in the second set and were hitting .406 through the first two sets. Foecke added seven kills in the second set to make her total 10 for the match. She was hitting .529 after two sets. Northwestern was hitting .214 after two sets.
Northwestern struggled with Albrecht’s serve early in the third set, with their first reception floating over the net and resulting in a Foecke kill, their second and third causing out-of-system attacks that either floated out of bounds or the Huskers easily dug.
Albrecht’s fourth serve was an ace, and led to another early Northwestern timeout with the Huskers up 4-0.
Two more Wildcat mistakes put the Huskers up 6-0, but they finally managed to effectively pass the serve and earned a kill out of the middle to end the Husker run.
The next eight points alternated between the two teams, but Northwestern made a small dent when Jazz Sweet just missed on an off-speed roll shot. That closed the gap to 10-6 Nebraska.
Lauren Stivrins contributed with the next two points, getting a kill on the middle attack to take an 11-6 lead, then combining with Kelly Hunter to block the Wildcat outside hit and give The Big Red a 12-6 lead. Northwestern then took their final timeout of the third set.
The timeout didn’t help things much for the Wildcats. Albrecht drove the next point down the line for a point, and then a Sydney Townsend ace put the Huskers up 14-6.
It only got worse for the visitors as the set went on. Wherever they tried to put a ball, the Huskers were there. A long rally with the Huskers up 17-8 ended with Northwestern desperately sending over a free ball that hit the bottom of the JumboTron as it passed over the net, giving Nebraska an 18-8 lead.
Late in the set, Sami Slaughter got in and helped with the block that gave the Huskers their first match point, 24-12. The Huskers converted that one and took the set 25-12 and the match 3-0.
The Huskers hit .378 for the match led by Foecke’s 14 kills and .500 attacking pace. Annika Albrecht added eight kills and hit .318. Jazz Sweet and Holman each had seven kills, hitting .400 and .312, respectively.
The Huskers had six blocks for the night against two for the Wildcats. Lauren Stivrins was responsible for part of four of those blocks. Both Kenzie Maloney, with 15, and Annika Albrecht, with 10, had double-digit digs on a night when the Huskers had 46 digs. Northwestern managed 38.
Early in set one, Northwestern kept a lot of balls alive and hit sharp cross-court shots that took some time for the Huskers to adjust to. The Huskers haven’t seen a lot of attacks the nature of what Northwestern was doing early. By the time the Huskers had adjusted, the Wildcats had an advantage late in the set, but an adjustment defensively turned the tide for the Huskers.
It was another great night for the Huskers. The way this team is playing it seems more like the Wisconsin loss was a hiccup, rather than a concern. The momentum continues for this team in conference play.
Saturday night former Husker Assistant Chris Tamas leads the Illinois Fighting Illini into Devaney. That match will start at 7:00 PM Central again and will be televised on NET and BTN2Go. Radio will be available on Husker Sports Network affiliates.