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Volleyball: #4 Nebraska Finishes Husker Invite

Husker Nation looked to the volleyball team to give them a boost after the disappointing day at 1 Memorial. The team came through, knocking off Missouri State.

Jon Johnston

The end of a weekend full of volleyball at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln saw the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers Women’s Volleyball team knock off the Missouri State University Bears to clinch the championship of the Husker Invite 3-0 (25-19, 25-12, 25-4).

Nebraska screamed out of the gate, scoring the first four points of the match with a combination of Missouri State errors and Husker blocks. The Bears battled back, taking the next two, then a Husker sideout slowed the run but couldn’t stop it as the the Huskers missed into the net. Missouri State took the lead with three straight service aces 6-5.

Sophomore transfer Lexi Sun scored for the Huskers to knot the set at six, but the serve again missed for the Huskers, allowing the visitors to hold the lead. A Lauren Stivrins kill tied the score again, but the Huskers missed a third straight serve.

Lexi Sun finally connected on her serve with the score tied at nine, but a net violation on the Huskers again gave the Bears the advantage.

Middle blocker Lauren Stivrins stepped back to serve for the Huskers and managed to hold long enough for the Huskers to take the 10-9 lead, but missed her second serve, and the set was tied again.

Nebraska held a two-point advantage at 13-11, but Missouri State wouldn’t go away, and a missed Bear serve took the teams to the media timout with the Huskers leading 15-14.

A Stivrins-Nicklin Hames block out of the timeout ignite a brief Husker run, allowing them to pull away from the Bears by a count of 17-14 before Missouri State’s attack found the floor.

The Bears came back to within one at 17-16, but the Huskers managed to capitalize on mistakes and create points of their own to make the score 20-17 and force a Missouri State timeout.

While the first Husker serve out of the timeout was errant, it was only a brief reprieve for the visiting team who used their second and final timeout of the set trailing 23-19.

A Jazz Sweet block and an ace ended the set in the Huskers favor 25-19.

The Huskers hit .419 while holding the Bears to .083. Jazz Sweet had four kills on six swings with no errors to hit .667. Mikaela Foecke hit .375 with three kills while Lauren Stivrins hit 1.000 with three kills.

The Huskers had three blocks in the opener with Jazz Sweet and Callie Schwarzenbach each recording two block assists.

The Huskers started the second set with the same momentum they’d ended the first, going up 5-0 thanks to a series of Bear mistakes and easy balls that the Huskers could easily capitalize on.

An early 8-2 Husker lead forced the first Missouri State timeout of the set. While the Bears scored the subsequent point, it did little to quell the surge the Huskers were riding. The Huskers quickly opened the lead up to eight and while the Bears closed to within six at 14-8, the Huskers took charge again and forced the second MSU timeout with the score 17-8 Huskers.

Again the timeout paid immediate dividends for the Bears, as they scored the first point after the timeout. However the pay off was brief, and the Huskers blocked a Bear attack to put Foecke on the service line.

Foecke’s first serve was an ace and extended the Husker lead to 19-9. That was the closest they’d get the rest of the way as the red onslaught continued and the Huskers took the set 25-12.

After two sets, Stivrins and Foecke were pacing the Husker offense with seven kills apiece. Foecke was hitting .389 while Stivrins was hitting .600. It was a well balanced attack for the Huskers as Lexi Sun and Jazz Sweet each had six kills.

The team added five more blocks in the set for a total of eight through the first two. After her 13 block performance on Friday night, Scwarzenbach was again the leading blocker with one solo and four assists.

The first point of the third set was long and ugly at times, but the Huskers prevailed and again began the set on a run. Nebraska started with a 4-0 lead for the third time on the night and forced another early Bear timeout.

Again the Bears capitalized immediately after the break, but couldn’t hold serve. In fact, in the early going in the third set, the visiting team couldn’t get much of anything going. They used their second timeout trailing 11-1.

The play drawn up in the timeout was effective for the Bears, as they converted a slide attack to stop the Husker run at seven, but Lexi Sun answered back for the Huskers, and Nebraska was off running again.

A 5-0 Husker run made the score 16-2 Big Red before Missouri State converted on an outside attack, but again the team was one-and-done and the Huskers used a 5-0 run to take a 21-3 lead before the Bears could score again.

The final set was an impressive display by all aspects of the Husker machine. They were virtually error-free all night, but never moreso than on the way to the 25-4 final set win.

The Huskers had only four hitting errors on the night out of 84 swings. With the 46 kills, that gave the Huskers a nearly unheard of .500 hitting percentage. Stivrins (.714) and Foecke (.478) each had 11 kills to lead the team.

Nicklin Hames was incredibly effective in her distribution on the night with each of the primary attackers getting twelve or more swings. Foecke had the most attempts, with 23, but it still spoke to an offense that is clicking in a big way.

After her 13 blocks on Friday night, Callie Schwarzenbach again was an absolute force in the middle, having a hand in nine of the 13 Husker blocks on the night, one of them solo. Jazz Sweet added five assisted blocks.

Nebraska had 44 digs against 31 for Missouri State. Libero Kenzie Maloney had 17 digs while Foecke notched yet another double-double with 11.

Set one was a slow start for the Huskers again tonight. While the common denominator between the New Mexico match and tonight’s match was Lexi Sun’s addition to the lineup, which will be a long-term positive, big time, it’s nevertheless a bit concerning as the B1G regular season begins next week.

It’s likely that any hiccups with Sun being healthy and in the lineup will be worked out before Michigan comes to Devaney on Friday night to open conference play.

Most in the volleyball community will tell you that the B1G is the best conference in the country. Most will say far and away. Having Lexi Sun back and healthy for the last two matches of non-conference play helps the team establish the chemistry and comfort the Huskers will need to be successful in the conference season.

Next weekend will be the start of B1G play with both teams from the state of Michigan coming to Lincoln. Friday night’s match against Michigan will be broadcast on BTN starting at 7:00 Central. The Michigan State match will be a Sunday matinee at 2:00 and will be broadcast on ESPNU.