Friday was a full day of volleyball at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln as there were four matches in day one of the Ameritas Players’ Challenge. The #5 Nebraska Cornhuskers Women’s Volleyball team played host to Ohio, Santa Clara, and Wake Forest on the weekend, knocking off the Ohio Bobcats in the afternoon and the Wake Forest Demon Deacons Friday evening.
The early match was Nebraska all the way with the Big Red never trailing by more than three points in any set and always leading in the second half of the sets. The Huskers swept the Bobcats 25-17, 25-14, 25-17.
The Huskers hit .349 for the match against Ohio while holding Ohio to .047. Outside hitter Mikaela Foecke hit .593, a spectacular number, to lead the Huskers with 17 kills. Lauren Stivrins joined Foecke in the .500+ club, hitting .500 with nine kills.
Libero Kenzie Maloney had 11 digs to lead the Husker defense that had a total of 38 digs. The team also recorded nine blocks, led by four from Stivrins.
The nightcap match on Friday saw the Huskers take on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. It was a relatively short night at Devaney with the Huskers again sweeping their opponent 25-14, 25-11, 25-9.
With setter Nicklin Hames on the line to start the set, the Huskers took the first three points to open up the early advantage.
Wake Forest closed the gap to one at 5-4 Nebraska, but the Huskers took control again with a 7-4 advantage. At the media timeout, the Huskers led the set 15-8.
Nebraska kept the tempo and pressure up out of the timeout with two Jazz Sweet kills to push the score to 17-8 and force a Deacon timeout.
The next point was ALSO a Jazz Sweet kill, making the score 18-8 Huskers before Wake Forest stopped the Husker run. However, the Demon Deacon serve found the middle of the net, and the Huskers had serve again.
While Wake Forest scored their points, they couldn’t ever make a significant dent in the Husker lead and Nebraska closed out the set on a Megan Miller ace. Lauren Stivrins was perfect in the set with four kills on four swings. Jazz Sweet also had four kills and .500 on her eight swings. The Huskers hit .257 while the Demon Deacons hit .114.
Statistically, the first set was a great one for the Huskers with the team getting three service aces against only one error while Wake Forest committed three errors with no aces. The Huskers also had two blocks to none for Deacons.
Set two started with a Calli Schwarzenbach kill followed by a Schwartzenbach block gave the Huskers a quick 2-0 lead. An ace by Hames gave the Huskers a 3-0 lead to start the second set again before Wake Forest could get on the board.
Nebraska had a 7-2 lead when the Wake Forest attack sailed deep, but was called in by the line judge, causing Coach John Cook to pull out the green challenge card. The Huskers won the challenge and the 7-3 score was changed to 8-2. Jazz Sweet converted on the next point to push the Husker advantage to 9-2 and force the first Wake Forest timeout of set two.
Wake Forest could do little to stem the Husker current. The Demon Deacons used their second timeout of the set with the Huskers leading 14-5.
The timeout didn’t stop the Husker run with Nebraska scoring twice more before the Demon Deacon attack could find the floor in bounds. That made the Husker lead 16-6.
Wake Forest scored again, but Schwarzenbach notched a solo block to preserve the lead. Schwarzenbach continued to be a nuisance for the visitors and the Huskers opened the lead up to 21-8.
Wake Forest mounted a run late in the set, recording three straight points to tighten the score to 22-11 Huskers. Coach Cook took the first Husker timeout of the set.
A coach’s point out of the timeout (When the serving team misses the serve after the timeout.) gave the Huskers a 23-11 lead. On the Huskers first set point, the R1 (up official) blew his whistle and called a four-touch violation on the home team. After chatting briefly with the R2, a replay was called and the Huskers capitalized, closing the set out 25-11.
Stivrins added only one more kill in the second set, but it was spectacular. She also only had one additional attempt, so she was still hitting 1.000 for the night. The Huskers hit .296 in the second with Sweet, Foecke, and Schwarzenbach each adding two kills.
Wake Forest again had zero blocks in the set, but the Huskers added six. The result was a -.143 hitting pace for the Deacons in the set.
An overpass by Wake Forest turned in to a Jazz Sweet kill to start the third set scoring for the Huskers, then Hames scored an ace, then Sweet did it again to begin a run that eventually gave the Huskers a 5-0 lead. The run was ended when Hames served deep.
The Demon Deacons used their first timeout early in the set trailing 7-1 when they’d only scored on a Husker error. However, the timeout didn’t change the fortunes for Wake Forest any.
The Huskers held a 13-5 lead when they ran a double sub, putting Mari Kurkova in to set and Anezka Szabo to hit. Both players also saw court time in the earlier match of the day. However, it was short-lived with Hames going back in to serve.
Wake Forest took their final timeout of the set with the score 15-6 Nebraska, but again it didn’t change the momentum with Jazz Sweet decisively putting the Huskers up by ten.
Nebraska only extended their lead the rest of the way, and gave Chen Abramovich some court time at defensive specialist, and took the set 25-9 on a Wake Forest hitting error.
The Huskers hit .341 on the night led by 11 kills from Jazz Sweet who hit an error-free .579. Lauren Stivrins had eight kills and one error to hit .700. Schwarzenbach also broke .500, hitting .556 with five kills. Wake Forest hit -.033 for the night.
Nebraska’s defense also far outshone Wake Forest’s with eight blocks to one and 43 digs against 36. Hames had 11 digs and Kenzie Maloney had 12. The leading Husker blocker was Schwarzenbach with four block assists and one solo block.
While these two wins are great wins for a young team, it’s hard to judge the team’s trajectory for the season against a team like Wake Forest or Ohio. Yes, the wins are good, and the team is taking care of teams that they should handily beat, but the B1G is a much different conference than either conference these opponents play in.
The Huskers never trailed on the night and played relatively error-free volleyball. That kind of play translates no matter the opponent.
The Huskers close out the Ameritas Players’ Challenge Saturday afternoon against the Santa Clara Broncos at 2:00 at the Bob Devaney Sports Center. It’ll be available on Husker Sports Network affiliate radio stations and BTNPlus.