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Gutsy Nebraska Performance Falls Just Short in National Championship Match

Wisconsin wins in five sets

Scott Bruhn

Nebraska 2 vs Wisconsin 3- 25-22, 29-31, 23-25, 25-23, 12-15

Nebraska volleyball showed real skill, strategy and guts when the match was on the line.

Set 1 - Keonilei Akana came out serving tough and right at Grace Loberg. She created two aces to get the Huskers off to a 5-1 start. Wisconsin made blocks on the outside to bring the score to 6-6. Akana dug some amazing balls just on her reaction. Ally Batenhorst found the inches between teh block on the outside and Kayla Caffey started drilling balls to the floor with her powerful attack, 11-9.

Wisconsin called their first timeout at 15-10 after a couple overpass balls. Wisconsin’s block began to pick up on the outside hitters and led them to 19-16. Kenzie Knuckles went back to serve and served Anna Smrek which forced a poor pass and the hitter went out of bounds, 23-19. Nebraska made multiple ball handling errors which brought the score closer, 24-22. After a Nebraska timeout, Rodriguez made a perfect pass in Stivrins found the floor, 25-22.

Set 2 - Nebraska continued to serve Loberg and it was effective, 5-1. Caffey was up and available and earned her fifth kill. Huskers played great side out defense digging balls and moving right into a attack/kill. Akana dug a hard driven Julia Orzol ball and Madi Kubik killed if from the backrow. Badger timeout after Caffey blocked Devyn Robinson out of the middle. The Dana Rettke and Smrek block found the Nebraska floor a few times in a row, 16-15.

Back to back Nebraska service errors kept the score close, 18-17. Badger block and Loberg kills gave them the lead 20-21. Caffey scored out of the Nebraska timeout, 21 all. At 23 all, Wisconsin challenged the block touch call, they lost the challenge, 24-23 NU. Kubik missed the next serve, 24 all. Sydney Hilley returned the favor, 25-24. Wisconsin challenged another call only points later on ball called out, they lost again, 26 all. Knuckles served an ace to take the score to NU 28-27. Two Rettke blocks took the set for WI, 29-31.

Set 3 - Both teams came out aggressive this set and the score went back and forth as they sided out efficiently, 6-8 early. Caffey went to battle at the net and won some and lost some, 9-10. Nebraska won a challenge at 12-13. Service errors on both sides took the set to 14-17. Wisconsin made a couple short serves and opened the margin to 16-20. After a Badger timeout Krause killed the ball, 22-23. Hames serving and Jade Demps missing on the attack, 23 all. Demps then attacks from the middle to win, 25-23.

Set 4 - Nebraska had some fire for set 4. Krause killed a ball, Stivrins block and Akana went back to serve, 3-1. Kubik and Akana gave chase to a dig deep in the court and tumbled over each other. Akana came up slow but played on. Knuckles served an ace, 10-8. The blocks add up and the Badgers had 21 at this point, 10-11.

Each team went back and forth and never separated by more than a point, 15 all. Demps is effective from the back row with three points in this set. Two hitting errors by Wisconsin moved the lead in favor of Nebraska, 19-17. Out of the Wisconsin timeout and a long rally Stivrins blocked Orzol, 20-17. Very next play Kubik and Stivrins blocked Smrek on a slide, 21-17.

Orzol missed a serve to give 22-18 to Nebraska. Kubik cut as shot so sharp around the Smrek and Rettke block for 23-19. Another missed WI serve, 24-20. After two WI points, NU calls a timeout. Akana dug an unbelievable ball at 24-23, it got to Batenhorst who took a gutsy swing to win the set, 25-23.

Set 5 - The referee overruled the line judge call on a Krause hit, 0-2. Two more WI points forced a NU timeout. Two more WI blocks and another NU timeout. Nebraska changed the serve receive rotation to get the ball on Batenhorst on the outside and earned a side out, 1-7. Behind Akana’s serve and Orzol hitting errors, NU made a run, 5-9. Wisconsin called a timeout.

Akana made a pancake and WI made a hitting error, 6-10. Batenhorst made a kill, 7-10. A Stivrins slide from a perfect Akana pass, 8-11. A Rettke slide made it 9-13. Ace WI, 9-14. Knuckles serve, overpass, Kubik kill. Long rally ends with a Kubik hit out. Coach Cook challenge but on review, THERE WAS A TOUCH, 12-14. The next rally was long but Rettke ended it on a slide, 12-15.