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Husker Volleyball Falls to Ohio State

Jon Johnston

In years past, Ohio State has proven a bit of a problem for the Husker Volleyball team. Friday night, the Buckeyes proved to be a challenge again. The Huskers prevailed after going down two sets to none to beat Ohio State in five on Friday night, the first team to beat the Buckeyes. Saturday, the Buckeyes returned the favor and the Huskers lost 2-3 (20-25, 25-22, 25-21, 21-25, 13-15).

Senior Middle Lauren Stivrins scored the first two points for the Huskers with kills of Buckeye over passes, but the first set stayed tight until OSU opened a 10-6 lead, forcing the first Nebraska timeout.

With the score 14-10 OSU, BTN flashed up the hitting percentage. Ohio State was hitting .750 and Nebraska was hitting .476. With their numbers, Nebraska should’ve been far out front, but that OSU number is other worldly. However, Nebraska scored the next three to fight right back into the set.

Despite great effort by the Huskers, the Buckeyes pushed the lead to 23-19 to force the second Husker timeout late in the set, but it did little good as the Huskers dropped the first set 20-25.

Nebraska dominated the early part of the second, scoring four in a row after the set was tied at one.

The set wasn’t tied again until 13-all, but Nebraska took the next two points to have a 15-13 lead at the media timeout. Nebraska held the advantage most of the way, and seemed to have sealed it 25-21, but Ohio State challenged the call and won the challenge, but Nebraska took the next point to win the set 25-22 and tie the match at one.

The Big Red started off strong again in the third, going up 4-1, but Ohio State took the next two to close to within a point again. The Husker lead eventually grew to six and although the Buckeyes closed to within two at one point, the Huskers took the set 25-21.

The fourth set saw the Buckeyes score first, in fact Ohio State took a 2-0 lead before the Huskers scored. Then Ohio State took a 4-1 lead, but the Huskers closed to 4-3. After three straight Buckeye points, Nebraska called a timeout trailing 7-3.

Trailing by five, Jazz Sweet and Callie Schwarzenbach entered the match. The change had little effect on the trajectory of the set, as Nebraska couldn’t close the gap effectively and dropped the set 21-25.

The deciding set stayed tight from start to finish. Ohio State scored first, but didn’t push the lead to more than three. Though Nebraska was playing from behind for the majority of the set, a Lauren Stivrins slide attack gave the Huskers their first lead at 11-10 in a set that ends at 15.

Nebraska’s first lead resulted in an OSU timeout, but Ohio State couldn’t take the lead back until match point, where the Buckeyes led 14-13 and forced a Husker timeout. The Huskers couldn’t capitalize, and dropped the deciding set 13-15.

While service errors haunted Ohio State throughout this match, they helped make good on the fact that they had four more service errors than the Huskers by also having three more aces.

Ohio State hit .280 while holding Nebraska to .244. Stivrins had 16 kills and hit .400 on the night. Lexi Sun had 22 kills and hit .250.

Throughout this season, serve-receive has been problematic for the Huskers, and in crucial times tonight, they couldn’t get the ball to setter Nicklin Hames. When the setter is off her mark, it’s tough to get the offense really running.

From a coach’s perspective, there were also critical times where the Huskers seemed to be trying to score in ways they don’t train. I’m thinking specifically about Lexi Sun missing a push tip to the corner when she’d been scoring with her attacks.

It should also be noted that Ohio State is good. I mean, while they haven’t played the elite of the conference (Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin) this year before this weekend, the Buckeyes were undefeated before Friday. Is this Ohio State making their presence known in the conference, or just a Covid-19 year anomaly? Well, they’re young, and not losing any of their contributors next year.

Big Ten volleyball is a gauntlet. It’s a huge reason that the conference is well-represented all the way to championship weekend.

Nebraska travels to Iowa City to play the Hawkeyes on Wednesday, then hosts the Hawkeyes on Saturday. Wednesday’s game will be televised on BTN while Saturday will be on NET. Both will be available on Husker Sports Network radio stations.