On the night when seniors Kelly Hunter, Annika Albrecht, Sydney Townsend, Briana Holman, and Allie Havers were honored, the #5 Huskers hosted the Iowa Hawkeyes at the Bob Devaney Sports Center. The Huskers sent the senior class off with a bang, sweeping the Hawkeyes 25-12, 25-15, 25-23 and sealing a conference championship.
A kill on an overpass by outside hitter Mikaela Foecke followed by an ace by Annika Albrecht put the Huskers up 2-0 quickly. Foecke then added another and middle blocker Lauren Stivrins got in on the action, pushing the score to 4-0 early for the Big Red.
Iowa got a kill to make the score 4-1 Husker, but Foecke answered to keep the Huskers up big early.
The Huskers opened the lead up to 9-3 before Iowa could make up any ground. Iowa closed to within three at 11-8 before Nebraska used a 4-0 run leading into the media timeout. The Huskers led 15-8 at the timeout.
The first two points out of the timeout also fell Nebraska’s way, pushing the lead to nine for the home team. Iowa could not make any head way against Nebraska and took their first timeout of the set with the score 20-10 Nebraska.
Nebraska scored out of the timeout when the Iowa attack just missed the baseline to make the score 21-10, but Kelly Hunter’s next serve hit the middle of the net to cede the point to the Hawkeyes.
The momentum didn’t slow for the Huskers. The team had their first set point with the score 24-12 and which point Iowa used their second timeout of the first set. The Iowa attack on the next rally sailed long, giving the first set to the Huskers.
Nebraska’s first attack that didn’t score came with the Huskers up 9-3 in the first set. Prior to that, the Huskers had been hitting 1.000. They finished the set with a .591 hitting percentage.
Nearly every Husker hitter had a phenomenal first set, with Jazz Sweet recording the only errors for the team.
Iowa took the first two points of set two, but then the Huskers used a 2-0 run to tie the score. Iowa then scored two of their own to reopen the their advantage, but the Huskers tied the score again at four.
The Hawkeyes took a 5-4 lead on a call that Husker Coach John Cook took exception to, though didn’t challenge. Iowa scored the next point to again take a two-point lead at 6-4.
Nebraska tied the score again at seven and took the lead at 8-7. Nebraska rode a 5-0 run to take a 10-7 lead before Iowa could sideout.
Another 5-0 Nebraska run took the teams to the media timeout with the score 15-8 Nebraska. The Huskers had trailed 7-5 before a 10-1 run had them comfortably in front at the media break.
Iowa went on a 4-1 run out of the timeout to close the score to 16-12 Nebraska. The Iowa momentum led to Coach Cook calling the first Husker timeout of the second set.
A coach’s point, a missed serve after a timeout, gave the ball back to Nebraska with Albrecht serving and the score 17-12. That point went to the Hawkeyes who stayed within four of the Huskers.
Nebraska pulled away late in the set, taking a 22-14 lead before Iowa coach Bond Shymansky called the first Hawkeye timeout of the set. The timeout didn’t change much for Iowa, as the Huskers took the set 25-15.
After two sets, Foecke was the dominant attacker for the Huskers with 13 kills on 17 swings with no errors. Briana Holman had five kills and was hitting .500. Albrecht also had five kills and was hitting .308.
The Huskers had eight blocks through the first two sets, led by one solo block and six block assists by Holman.
The third set had a similar start to the second with Iowa taking the first two points before giving up a point on an errant serve.
Nebraska took three straight to take a 3-2 lead, but Iowa countered and tied the score at three.
A 5-0 run by the Huskers made the score 9-4 Nebraska. However, Iowa managed to claw back into it, riding a 7-2 run to tie the score at 11.
Nebraska took the lead back by two points at 13-11 before Iowa took two again to tie the score at 13. Coach John Cook challenged the call on the second point, positing that the attack called out of bounds on Stivrins had touched the Iowa block, but the call was confirmed by video review.
The teams traded barbs over the next three rallies with Iowa holding the advantage at the media timeout 15-14.
Nebraska took a 16-15 lead after the timeout, but two subsequent points by Iowa gave the Hawkeyes the lead once again at 17-16 and forced the first Husker timeout of the set.
Devaney came to its feet out of the timeout and Holman notched an emphatic kill out of the middle to tie the score at 17.
Iowa took an 18-17 lead, but two more Husker points put the Huskers back on top 19-18.
With the score tied at 19, Albrecht covered her own attack off her foot to keep the point alive. The Huskers ultimately won the point on a block in the middle. Iowa used their first timeout of the set at that point in the hopes of curbing the building Husker momentum.
Nebraska took the first point after the timeout, capitalizing after a long rally to take the two-point edge 21-19, but Iowa answered again, scoring the next two to tie the score at 21.
A Husker net violation gave the lead back to the Hawkeyes 22-21 and led to the second and final Husker timeout of the set. Nebraska looked sloppy on the first point out of the timeout and Iowa extended the lead to 23-21.
An Albrecht kill gave the serve back to the Huskers with Albrecht on the line. The Hawkeyes couldn’t handle the Foecke attack on the next point and Nebraska tied the score again at 23 forcing Iowa’s second and final timeout of the set.
The Husker defense kept them in the next point with two great digs to give Nebraska their first match point. The Huskers scored the next point to take the set 25-23 and the match 3-0.
The Huskers hit .068 in the last set, but hit .255 for the match led by 15 kills from Foecke who hit .400. Holman also entered double-digit territory with 10 kills while hitting .571.
The Huskers had 10.5 kills on the night led by Holman’s one solo block and seven assisted blocks. Iowa had six blocks.
The Nebraska defense stifled Iowa through the first two sets and held the Hawkeyes to .067 for the night. The Huskers had 45 digs led by 14 from Kelly Hunter and 10 from Albrecht.
The win tonight secured the Huskers a share of the B1G title. Penn State beat Minnesota in four in Minneapolis to secure their part of the conference title. Nebraska was 19-1 in conference with the only loss coming on the road to Wisconsin. Penn State’s loss was at home against Nebraska.
There is no tie-break in the B1G for the conference title as the teams will not need an automatic qualifier bid to get into the tournament. The B1G is the most difficult conference in the country for volleyball. It’s likely that seven conference teams will make the tournament, so both Nebraska and Penn State will be able to claim the title.
Coach Cook got emotional addressing the crowd after the trophy presentation, as he highlighted the difficulty of graduating as many contributors as the team did last year as well as the change in the coaching staff with both Chris Tamas and Dani Busboom leaving Nebraska to take head coaching jobs.
Next weekend’s schedule will be determined after the selection of the tournament field. It’s all but a foregone conclusion that the Huskers will host the first two rounds next weekend. If the Huskers can win the weekend, they will likely host the following weekend as well at Devaney. We will have the schedule for you here when it’s posted.