This week was a mixed bag for the #5 Nebraska Huskers Women’s Volleyball team both in terms of opponents and outcomes. Wednesday night, the Huskers hosted the Indiana Hoosiers at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln, sweeping the visitors. Saturday night was a trip to University Park, Pennsylvania to take on the #9 Penn State Nittany Lions. The Huskers dropped a heartbreaking five-setter to Penn State.
Though the team swept Indiana on Wednesday, it wasn’t as simple as that with the Husker needing 30 points in the second set to keep the sweep in play. Ultimately, the Huskers won 25-13, 30-28, 25-11.
All three Husker pin hitters had a good night breaking into the double-digits in kills. The leading attacker was sophomore Jazz Sweet with 11 kills to hit .459. Senior Mikaela Foecke had 10 kills and hit .259 while sophomore Lexi Sun had 11 kills and hit .280.
Nebraska again had double-digit blocks, recording 11 in total, led by nine block assists from freshman Callie Schwarzenbach. Schwarzenbach leads the conference in blocks per set. The only solo block on the night was freshman setter Nicklin Hames. Indiana managed six blocks on the night.
The back row defense was also superb for the Big Red, notching 48 digs to 39 for the Hoosiers. Senior libero Kenzie Maloney had 11 digs while Hames had 10. Coach Cook had a much more positive outlook after this match than he had on Saturday night, simply stating that the team got better on Wednesday.
The team would need that improvement starting a brutal run of four straight outside of Lincoln. The first of those four was at Rec Hall on the Penn State campus, taking on the #9 Nittany Lions. In the end, the home team prevailed in a hard-fought five set match. The final was 2-3 (22-25, 25-11, 26-24, 23-25, 9-15).
While the .210 team hitting percentage for the Huskers isn’t spectacular, it was better than the Lions managed, .172. In fact, the Huskers led in nearly every statistical category. That was helped by a spectacular set two from Nebraska, a set when the team hit .448 and shut down Penn State’s attack in a big way.
Lexi Sun had 20 kills for the Huskers on her way to hitting .196. She had 56 swings. Foecke had 17 kills on 53 attacks to hit .226. Both middles also had nice nights with sophomore Lauren Stivrins hitting .471 and Schwarzenbach hitting .545.
The only category where Penn State had the advantage on Saturday was digs, with the Nittany Lions recording 89 to the Huskers’ 87. Maloney had 23 digs while both Foecke and Hames had 18. Sophomore defensive specialist Hayley Densberger had 11.
Schwarzenbach had one solo block and six block assists to lead the way for a Husker block that recorded 13 against the Penn State attack. Penn State stoned the Huskers on 10 occasions.
The Saturday night match is the beginning of a brutal run of matches on the road for the Huskers. Friday night the Huskers head to Madison to take on (as of Sunday afternoon) the #8 Wisconsin Badgers, then bounce over to the Twin Cities for a rematch with the #3 Minnesota Golden Gophers. Both of those matches will be on BTN at 7 PM Central. Then the following Wednesday, October 24 the team heads to Columbus, Ohio to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes. That match is also on BTN at 7 PM Central. While Ohio State isn’t generally among the B1G elite, it’s a team that has given the Huskers fits in recent years.
While the growing pains with the young team still seem to rear their head from time to time, overall fans are getting more and more of what they expect from Husker Volleyball each week. This current road trip will tell us a lot about who this team is now versus who they were not that far in the past, and let us know more about what we have to look forward to come tournament time.