The Husker Volleyball team traveled to Omaha to play in the Omaha Challenge over the weekend at Baxter Arena. The Huskers finished the weekend 2-1, defeating Kansas State Friday and Nebraska-Omaha Saturday evening, but falling to the University of Northern Iowa earlier Saturday.
The team started the weekend early on Friday, sweeping the Kansas State Wildcats 25-22, 25-11, 25-16. The Huskers were led by ten kills from each of the middles, Lauren Stivrins and Briana Holman. Both hitters hit .500 for the match. Jazz Sweet and Mikaela Foecke each had nine kills for the day.
The Huskers serve very well against Kansas State recording three aces and just one error while the Wildcats had one ace and five errors. The Huskers had nine blocks, led by Lauren Stivrins six assisted blocks, to four blocks for the Wildcats.
The greatest Husker advantage was in digs, where the Huskers had 51 to 29 for Kansas State. Libero Kenzie Maloney was all over the floor, keeping 16 balls up, and Annika Albrecht was also a defensive force, adding 15 digs of her own.
Saturday started tough for the Huskers, falling 1-3 (20-25, 23-25, 25-14, 21-25) to the Panthers from the University of Northern Iowa.
The teams had very similar attacking statistics, with Nebraska hitting .233 with 56 kills, and UNI hitting .232 with 56 kills. The top Husker was Albrecht, notching 15 kills and hitting .314. The other two outsides also had double-digit kills with Foecke adding 12 kills and Sweet recording 11.
In nearly every category, the stats showed a very evenly-contested match. Nebraska had 68 digs, led by 21 from Maloney, to 67 from the Panthers. UNI had one more block, seven, than the Huskers who were led by two solo and two assisted blocks from Stivrins. The only true separation was the eight aces and five errors from UNI whereas the Huskers had five aces and no errors.
The nightcap match paired the Huskers with in-state rival the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks. The Huskers swept the Mavs 26-24, 25-15, 25-13.
Only one Husker hitter registered double-digit kills for the set, and that was Albrecht. Annika had 15 kills and hit .375 as the Huskers hit .327 for the match. Omaha hit .118.
Both teams had six blocks with Stivrins again pacing the Huskers with four block assists for the match. Stivrins is showing herself to be a defensive force for the Huskers, leading the team in blocks in each match of the weekend.
Maloney’s 14 digs led the Huskers who outdug the Mavericks 48-34. Omaha had more aces, three, than the Huskers’ two, but also had eight serving errors where the Huskers had only five.
This team is clearly still showing growing pains. The loss to UNI was an unexpected one, and one that shows inexperience, more than anything. Playing in Omaha is always a de facto home match for the Huskers, and when the stats are as similar as they are, it’s the intangibles that make the difference. As this team grows, they’ll learn to win the tight ones.
The ladies travel again this weekend, heading to Penn State on Friday, September 22 to take on the Nittany Lions in a match that will be televised on BTN at 7:00 PM CDT. Saturday night’s match will be at Rutgers at 6:00 PM CDT and will be available on BTNPlus. All Husker matches are available on Husker Sports Network radio affiliates.