The second half of a split weekend (for the NSAA High State Championships) saw the #6-Ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers played host to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln. It was a short afternoon as the Huskers swept the Knights 25-8, 25-11, 25-13.
Nebraska scored the first two points of the set, then after a Rutgers sideout went on a 3-0 run to take an early 5-1 advantage.
After another Rutgers sideout, Nebraska went on a 5-0 run to make the score 10-2 Huskers and force the first Rutgers timeout of the set.
The Rutgers attack sailed long out of the timeout, but the Rutgers Head Coach CJ Werneke challenged, contending that the ball had touched the block. The Scarlet Knights won the challenge, making the score 10-3 Huskers.
That challenge was the spark that started a Rutgers run with the Scarlet Knights making the run a 4-0 run closed the score to 10-6 Huskers before Nebraska could sideout.
A 7-1 Nebraska run pushed the Husker lead to 17-7 and led to the second Rutgers timeout of the set, their final of the first set.
The timeout did little to change Rutgers’ fortunes, however, and the Huskers kept rolling with Annika Albrecht serving. Two wildly athletic plays on the same rally by Albrecht opened the score to 23-8 on a Foecke kill. The Huskers closed out the set 25-8.
Nebraska hit .615 in the first set, led by a perfect 3-for-3 from Lauren Stivrins. Albrecht led the team with six kills on ten swings. Not a single Husker had an error in the first set. The Huskers also had three blocks.
The second set started with a Rutgers kill off the Husker block before the Huskers took a 2-1 lead. The Knights tied it at two, but then served into the net to allow the Huskers to preserve their lead.
The Scarlet Knights hung close in the early part of the set, not letting the Huskers open the gap to more than two points until Nebraska took an 8-5 lead.
Nebraska had opened the lead up to 15-7 at the media timeout. As the teams went to the timeout, Werneke challenged the prior point, saying that though the ball was called down on the Rutgers side of the court, the ball had not, in fact, landed.
The challenge was unsuccessful for the Scarlet Knights and the Huskers continued their run.
With the Huskers leading 23-10 in the set, Sami Slaughter got some playing time in place of Albrecht to finish the second set. Rutgers scored the subsequent point, but a Briana Holman kill gave the Huskers set point and Slaughter score the winner, giving the Huskers a 2-0 set lead.
The Huskers were hitting .578 through the first two sets led by a still-perfect Stivrins with five kills on five swings. Foecke led the way with eight kills on ten swings to hit .800.
A Foecke kill gave the Huskers the first point of set three and Hunter Atherton followed that up with an ace in her first action of the afternoon. Rutgers pushed their next attack through the Husker block and out of bounds and then tied the score at two with a ball off the block of Holman.
A 2-0 run again gave the Huskers a two-point lead at 4-2, but Rutgers again tied the score at four.
Rutgers took a timeout with the score 7-4 Nebraska in the third and then closed to within one at 7-6, but put the next serve in the net, losing the chance to tie the set.
Nebraska went on a 3-0 run to make the score 10-6 Huskers, but Rutgers answered with a run of their own, scoring three straight points to close again to within one, 10-9.
Albrecht ended the Knights’ run and Sydney Townsend went back to serve. Townsend’s serves befuddled the Rutgers serve-receive. The Scarlet Knights were aced twice and out of system repeatedly as the Huskers used a 7-0 run to pad their lead and force the second, and final, Rutgers timeout of the set.
The Huskers scored again after the timeout, but Rutgers stopped the Husker run at eight, siding out to make the score 18-10 Nebraska.
Albrecht was on the service line with the score 19-10 Huskers and Slaughter checked in, this time for Foecke. Slaughter converted her first chance of the set to a kill off the top of the Rutgers block.
With the Huskers up 22-11, Chesney McClellan checked in for the Huskers, replacing Holman at middle blocker. Rutgers took advantage of the inexperienced McClellan to sideout and make the score 22-12 Nebraska.
Rutgers had a net violation on the next point, a Slaughter attack, and the Huskers took a 23-12 lead. However, the net violation was challenged by Rutgers. The call was upheld in review and the Huskers kept serve. Slaughter got the next kill and the Huskers had matchpoint.
On matchpoint, the Huskers were called in the net as the Knights’ attack sailed deep, but Anezka Szabo, who’d been inserted on the previous point, tooled the Rutgers block to secure the win for the Huskers.
The Huskers hit .480 for the match. Foecke had 12 kills and no errors to hit .800 and Albrecht had eight kills with a .333 hitting percentage.
The Husker defense held Rutgers to .092 attacking on the afternoon. Briana Holman had a part of five of the eight Husker blocks, and both Kenzie Maloney and Townsend had 11 of the team’s 38 digs.
The 32 total points scored by Rutgers tied an all-time low for a Husker opponent in the rally scoring era. The Huskers looked very good against a team that has not won a conference match this season, staying aggressive and really working toward that ultimate goal of playing deep into December. The blocking looked crisp and with nine aces and only one service error, the Huskers had one of the best serving nights they’ve had in a long time.
The next three matches are on the road for the Huskers. On Friday, November 17 they play at Ohio State at 5 PM Central and then play the next day at Maryland at 6 PM Central. The final match of the road trip will be the day before Thanksgiving at Northwestern with a 7 PM Central first serve. All three of those will be available on BTNPlus ($).