The Huskers’ first round opponent in this year’s NCAA Volleyball Tournament was the Hofsta Pride. The teams played Friday night for the opportunity to take on the Missouri Tigers who earlier in the day had swept the Arizona Wildcats 25-17, 25-22, 25-18. That honor belonged to the Huskers after a sweep 25-19, 25-12, 25-16.
A Husker overpass on the first serve gave the Pride the early lead, but sophomore outside hitter Lexi Sun answered immediately out of the middle to tie the score at one.
After trading points, the Pride actually extended their lead to 5-3 early, but the Huskers answered emphatically and a three-point run with senior outside hitter Mikaela Foecke on the line, a run that included an ace, gave the Huskers a 6-5 lead.
Nebraska twice opened up two-point advantages early in the first set, but couldn’t shake the Pride. Both times the Huskers held that lead, Hofstra managed to tie the score again. However, leading to the media timeout, the Huskers extended a two-point lead to three and held a 15-12 advantage.
An ace by sophomore middle blocker Lauren Stivrins extended the lead to four at 18-14 and forced the first timeout from Hofstra of the set.
Three of the next four points went to the Huskers as the attack, especially that of Lexi Sun, started to find its rhythm and the Pride used their second timeout with Nebraska leading by a count of 21-15.
The timeout proved effective for the Pride as they acored the next three points to narrow the Husker lead to three. Coach John Cook used his first timeout of the set with the Huskers leading 21-18.
Lexi Sun notched a kill out of the timeout and then headed back to the service line. A Husker block and a Pride net violation gave the Huskers their first set point, but Sun sailed the serve deep. The Pride answered in kind and the Huskers took set one 25-19.
The Huskers hit .400 in the first set, led by five kills from Lexi Sun, who hit .400. Stivrins was right on her tail with four kills to hit .667. Nebraska managed two blocks, both involving Mikaela Foecke. Hofstra hit .333 in the first set.
The second set started much more decisively for the Huskers. The early 5-1 Husker lead was due in part to two blocks that helped stifle the Hofstra attack. It also led to an early timeout by the Pride.
With the score 7-2 Nebraska, Hosftra Coach Emily Mansur challenged the call on the court that the Pride attack had been long without a touch. The call on the court was upheld, but the Pride scored the next point.
However, from that point, the Husker rout was on in the second set. The score was 13-3 Nebraska when Hofstra used their second timeout of the second set.
The next point for the Pride was two points out of the timeout, where they cut the score again to a ten-point Nebraska lead. Foecke put some emphasis on her next attack to take the serve back for the Huskers, then aced the Pride to make the score 16-4.
Stivrins put an early exclamation point on the set, putting a Hofstra overpass away to make the score 17-4 Huskers. The Huskers eventually won the set 25-12.
Freshman middle Callie Schwarzenbach’s first block of the second set, her second of the night, gave her the freshman record for blocks for the season at 160. It was not her last.
This set was much more what the home crowd was expecting, with the Huskers hitting .370 and the Pride hitting .000. Foecke had her first two kills of the night. Stivrins led the way in set two with four more kills. She was hitting .636 after two.
Two straight Husker errors began the third set, with freshman setter Nicklin Hames being called for a backrow block for the first point, and the second point resulting from a Lexi Sun attack error.
The Huskers then took the lead with Sun on the service line. Though it was a three-point run, the Huskers extended the lead to 6-3 early to force the Pride to take their first timeout of the set.
Nebraska had a 7-3 lead which was extended to 8-3, but Hofstra challenged the call, submitting that the Huskers had touched the net during the point. The Pride won that challenge and the score changed to 7-4 Huskers.
The Pride couldn’t hold serve though, and the Huskers won the next point, which fueled a four-point Husker run. Only a missed serve could stop the Huskers, whose lead was 11-5 when the Pride scored the sideout.
Hofstra used their second timeout trailing 16-7 to the host team. Again the timeout was effective for the Pride, as they scored the two subsequent points to narrow the Husker lead to seven points.
The Pride closed to within six again at 19-13 Huskers, but it was all the closer they’d get as the Devaney crowd began to file out when the Huskers regained serve with the score 20-13. It wasn’t a perfect finish, but a 6-3 Husker run closed the set and the match 25-16.
The Huskers hit .308 in the third set and .352 for the match. Hofstra was held to .134. Stivrins paced the Husker attack with twelve kills and she hit .500. Both outsides had nine kills. Foecke hit .409 and Sun hit .261. Sophomore right side Jazz Sweet had an error-free night, hitting .444 with four kills.
The Huskers had eight blocks for the night, led by six from Foecke, one of which was a solo block. Senior libero Kenzie Maloney led the team with 12 of the Huskers’ 45 digs.
The Huskers even served well on the night, with five aces and five errors. Foecke and freshman DS Megan Miller each had two aces.
Both Coach Cook and Lauren Stivrins talked about the adjustments made between sets one and two to that quieted the Hofstra attack, mainly blocking. Coach Cook talked about the influence that the international players on the Pride have on their attack, something that is atypical in the B1G.
The Huskers’ second round game will be Saturday night against the Missouri Tigers. That match will be at 7:00 Central and will be televised on NET and BTN2Go. The radio broadcast will be available on Husker Sports Network affiliates.