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Volleyball: Huskers Roll Terrapins

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Nebraska volleyball completed the weekend by taking both matches over the visiting Terrapins

Jon Johnston

After a rough Friday night, the Nebraska Women’s Volleyball Team looked much better on a frigid Saturday, sweeping the visitors from Maryland 25-14, 25-21, 25-,

Nebraska looked pretty solid in the first set, opening up a quick 3-0 lead as Maryland struggled to pass the Husker serve. Senior outside hitter Lexi Sun passed well in serve-receive in the early part of the set and Nebraska opened the lead to as much as eight. The Maryland attack continued to be a problem for the Huskers as their outsides were able to get balls inside the Husker block and on the floor in front of sophomore libero Kenzie Knuckles. Nebraska lead 15-11 at the media timeout.

Two quick Husker points, including sophomore outside Riley Zuhn’s fourth kill for the night, forced the first Maryland timeout of the set trailing the Huskers 17-11. Three of the next four points fell the way of The Big Red, punctuated by a Knuckles ace, resulting in the second and final Terrapin timeout of the opener with the Huskers up 19-12.

Freshman defensive specialist Keonilei Akana added an ace of her own on the way to a Husker 25-14 set win. The Husker serve kept the Terps out of system much of the first set, making it difficult for their offense to get going. When the Terrapins were in system, the hard cross was still deadly, something that Coach Cook had addressed the night before.

Second set started off a lot tighter, and a lot sloppier for the Huskers. Maryland held a one-point lead on multiple occasions with the Huskers missing serves and struggling to be in-system on serve-receive. Maryland extended the lead to 9-7 after a service error by senior defensive specialist Hayley Densberger and a two-hit call against junior setter Nicklin Hames.

Nebraska finally took the lead back at 12-11, but then gave up two straight to put MD ahead. At the media timeout, an ace by sophomore outside hitter Madi Kubik had the Huskers up 15-14.

Neither team could pull away. They traded the lead, and Nebraska took their first two-point lead of the set at 20-18 on a Lexi Sun ace, resulting in a Maryland timeout.

Sun missed the serve out of the timeout, but Kubik made good off a ball Sun set to extend the Husker lead to two again. A kill by Lauren Stivrins make the Husker lead 23-20, but it was challenged by Maryland Coach Adam Hughes, but the replay showed the right call was made, so it stood, and Maryland took their second timeout. The pause did little to slow the Big Red Machine, and a Maryland attack error gave the Huskers the second set 25-21.

From serve-receive to serving to attacking, the second set felt like a carbon copy of Friday night, a letdown from the first. Nebraska had three attack errors in the first set on Saturday, but six in the second. Hames was running all over the Devaney Center floor to chase down balls to get them anyplace close to her hitters. It allowed Maryland to hang around until the very end.

A strong start by junior middle blocker Kayla Caffey got the Huskers the first two points, but Maryland clawed back and tied it at three. Nebraska used a huge 7-2 run to force the first Maryland timeout at 10-5 Huskers.

It didn’t take long for Maryland to use their second timeout of the third after a dagger kill from Kubik out of the back row and the Huskers extending the lead to 12-5.

Kubik kept the pressure on with an ace out of the timeout. Nebraska pushed the lead to 15-6 on a run that included two Hames kills. That saw the double setter sub of senior outside hitter Jazz Sweet and freshman setter Annika Evans from just down the road in Waverly whose first collegiate touch on Friday night had been an ace. While she didn’t repeat the feat on Saturday, she still made plays and kept the Huskers rolling.

The momentum stayed with the Huskers the rest of the way, though Maryland closed to 23-18 and forced a Nebraska timeout, and the Huskers swept the night and the weekend with a 25-18. The final point was a Caffey kill off an Evans set.

Serve-receive, while better at times, still looked disorganized for the Huskers. It’s very difficult to run an offense with any kind of tempo when the setter is chasing balls off the court and just hoping to get them near a hitter. It’s too easy for the block and the defense. Whether it’s the week off, new players in new places, or a combination, it’s definitely something the Huskers have to clean up before playing the likes of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Penn State. This team has too much talent to be gritting out wins against Maryland.

Nebraska hit .337 for the night led by Riley Zuhn’s 11 kills and .500 hitting clip. Kubik had 12 kills while hitting .308 and Caffey had eight kills with only one error to hit .538. Nebraska’s seven blocks limited the Terrapins to .169 for the night.

Nicklin Hames had a double-double with 29 assists and 10 digs. Kubik also scored points effectively behind the baseline with three aces of Nebraska’s eight for the night. No other Husker cracked double-digits on the floor as the team only needed 34 digs to best the visitors.

General thoughts about being in Devaney during Covid-19. It’s kind of eerie. Last night, there was little sound between points. Tonight, there was music played after every ball was down similar to what the FIVB does at international matches. It make the general vibe in the gym nicer, but something is definitely missing. Even up in the press area, the

Next weekend the Huskers head to New Jersey for two 3:00 central time matches on Friday and Saturday against Rutgers. Those games are currently slated to air on BTN+, but you can always catch them on your local Husker Sports Network radio station.

GBR