On Wednesday night at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln, Nebraska, the #4 Nebraska Huskers Womens’ Volleyball team played host to the #14 Michigan State Spartans in a match-up of the only two teams with undefeated conference records. The Huskers left with the only unbeaten record, knocking off the Spartans 3-1(25-19, 25-15, 22-25, 25-19).
Michigan State started the scoring on two errors from the Husker hitters, taking an early 2-0 lead. The Spartans held on to the advantage as the teams traded sideouts until Mikaela Foecke got back to the service line and a 4-0 made the score 7-5 Big Red.
The teams traded service errors which put freshman Hayley Densberger on back to serve. The Huskers opened up a 10-6 lead with Densberger in the game. Michigan State closed to 10-8, but then another two Husker points made the score 12-8 Nebraska and forced the first Michigan State timeout of the set.
The timeout did nothing to slow the Husker momentum as the Huskers opened the lead to 15-8 before a miscommunication between Kelly Hunter and Lauren Stivrins led to a Spartan point.
Michigan State then took two more points to make the score 15-11 Nebraska at which point Nebraska Coach John Cook used his first timeout. Michigan State kept the momentum out of the timeout and score two more before putting a serve in the middle of the net and putting Senior Annika Albrecht on the line.
Albrecht’s first serve was an ace down the line and the Huskers converted the next point after a long rally to make the score 18-13 Nebraska.
Michigan State couldn’t close the gap any closer than five after that and Nebraska had their first set point with the score 24-16. Michigan State wouldn’t go quietly, but the Huskers finally prevailed in the first set 25-19.
Neither team had spectacular hitting numbers in the first set with the Huskers hitting .175 and Michigan State hitting .098. Annika Albrecht had five kills for the Huskers and hit .500. The Huskers had two aces against one error from the service line while the Spartans had three errors and no aces.
Sparty took the first point of set two, but the Huskers scored the next two, including a Kenzie Maloney ace to take the early 2-1 advantage.
Michigan State retook the lead 5-4, but ended their run with another service error, putting Densberger on the line for the first time in the second set. The Spartans took that point, but their advantage was again short-lived as the Huskers opened up a 10-7 lead which forced the first Michigan State timeout of the second set.
The teams traded points before the Huskers opened up a 15-10 lead on the visitors from East Lansing on a run that included a left-handed swipe by Albrecht that led to a Husker point. From that point, the teams matched sideouts until the Huskers opened up a 20-13 lead that led to Michigan State’s second and final timeout of the set.
The Huskers kept the run alive out of the timeout and took the first set point of the second at 24-13. Michigan State forced a second set point, and earned a team delay warning with a cumbersome substitution. Nebraska finally finished off the set 25-15.
Through two sets, the Huskers were hitting .198 to .074 for the Spartans. Albrecht continued to lead the Huskers with seven kills while Briana Holman had four kills and was hitting .444.
The Spartans again scored the first point to start the third set, but then the Huskers took the lead right back, 2-1.
Nebraska then opened the advantage to three points at 5-2, but didn’t hold the lead long, as Michigan State tied it at eight on a 3-0 before putting the serve into the net to put Sydney Townsend on the service line for the Huskers.
With Townsend serving, the Huskers opened the advantage back to three, 11-8, which led to the first Michigan State timeout of the third set.
Nebraska kept the pressure on out of the timeout, extending the lead to 14-8 before Michigan State could find the floor with an attack, but Lauren Stivrins notched another kill to give the Huskers the serve again.
The Spartans closed to within three at 17-14, and then to two points, 19-17 Nebraska, before Nebraska Head Coach John Cook took his first timeout of the third set.
The first two points out of the timeout also went to the Spartans, tying the score at 19 before Annika Albrecht sent a ball off the top of the block for a Husker point.
Serves traded sides, with the Huskers clinging to the advantage on serve, until a two-point Michigan State run gave the Spartans the 22-21 lead.
Michigan State blocked a Mikaela Foecke outside attack to make the score 23-21 Spartans and force the second and final Nebraska timeout of the set.
A long and frantic point out of the timeout ended with a two-hit violation on Michigan State for a Nebraska point and Kenzie Maloney serve.
That point fell to Michigan State on a roll shot to the middle of the Nebraska defense that gave Michigan State their first set point of the match. They capitalize when a Holman slide just missed wide, giving Michigan State the 25-22 win.
The Spartans capitalized on Nebraska hitting errors in the third set. For the set, the Huskers hit .095 while Michigan State hit .294. For the match the Huskers still held a .163-.133 advantage. Albrecht was still pacing the Husker attack with ten kills, but she had four errors and 32 total swings in the match through three.
Set four saw Michigan State again start the scoring, but Foecke scored a kill on the second rally of the set to tie it at one.
Nebraska lost serve straight away, and the Michigan State scored another one to make the score 3-1 Spartans. A kill out of the back row by Albrecht and a Foecke block knotted the score again at three.
Jazz Sweet sent a ball off the block to take the first lead of the set for the Huskers, and then another Albrecht backrow attack found the floor along the baseline to give the Huskers a 5-3 lead.
A Sydney Townsend ace made the lead three for the Huskers, 6-3, before Michigan State scored to end the Husker run.
The Spartans closed to 6-5, but the Huskers got the serve and the momentum back, and The Big Red opened up a five-point lead, 11-6, to force the first Michigan State timeout of the set.
The Huskers continued to pull away from the Spartans after that, opening the lead to 18-8 before an Annika Albrecht serve sailed long.
Michigan State couldn’t capitalize on the error, and the Huskers sided right back to put Kenzie Maloney on the service line.
Mikaela Foecke was a little too eager on the Michigan State set, and the over the net violation gave the Spartans the point, but Foecke made good on the next point, tooling the block for a Husker point.
Each Husker point, Michigan State answered and vice versa, so Nebraska held the ten point advantage until a Spartan attack sailed wide, making the score 23-12 Huskers. However, the call was challenged by Michigan State Coach Cathy George. The review was a short one, and well-used, as the call was overturned, and the score was 22-13 Huskers.
Michigan State scored again by burying an overpass by the Huskers. The ball appeared to be going wide, but deflected off of Jazz Sweet on its way out of bounds. The Spartans closed to within seven, 22-15, before the Huskers could sideout.
Michigan State answered the Husker sideout with one of their own, then scored two more to make the score 23-18 Huskers. Coach Cook then used the first Nebraska timeout of the fourth set.
Annika Albrecht scored the point out of the timeout to make the score 24-18 Huskers and give the Big Red their first matchpoint. The Huskers couldn’t capitalize on the first one, but Albrecht notched yet another kill from the back row to end the match for the Huskers.
The Huskers hit .217 for the match to .147 for the Spartans. Albrecht led three Huskers with double-digit kills, recording 18 and hitting .333. Lauren Stivrins hit .250 with ten kills, and Jazz Sweet hit .318 with ten kills.
This was a defensive battle with both teams getting dig after dig and extending points. The Huskers actually had one fewer dig than the Spartans with 70 to their 71. Annika Albrecht had a double-double tonight with 15 digs. Four other Huskers were in the double-digits with Maloney having 17 digs, Kelly Hunter 14, and both Foecke and Townsend adding ten.
The Husker blocking was a huge difference tonight as well. Nebraska recorded 11 blocks to seven for the Spartans. Albrecht had three solo blocks, while Hunter had two solo and three assisted blocks for Nebraska.
While both teams had their share of service errors, six for Nebraska, nine for Michigan State, Nebraska also had five aces for the match whereas Michigan State didn’t have any.
This night was a night when nearly all Husker attackers looked really good. Foecke struggled a bit, but there wasn’t a hitter who was totally off. It made the attack dynamic and very hard for Michigan State to defend.
The Huskers get Iowa in Iowa City on Saturday and then travel to Wisconsin for a re-match with the Badgers. The Iowa match will be at 7:00 pm Central while the Wisconsin match will be at 8:00 Central on Wednesday October 11. The Wisconsin match will be televised on BTN.