Hannah Werth and her teammates are drained.
Down 2-1 after three sets, the No. 4 Nebraska volleyball team stormed back into its match against then-No. 1 Penn State to tie the game at 2 apiece, and eventually earn the victory 3-2 (12-25, 32-30, 19-25, 25-23, 15-10).
It wasn’t a national championship, a final four or even a first round NCAA tournament match, but the hard work the team displayed in its quest for a comeback had all the ingredients of one – or all three.
After the match the Huskers are still feeling the agony from the team’s victory, but according to Werth, it’s a good feeling.
“We’re all pretty exhausted,” she said. “But it’s a satisfying exhaustion. I was bawling after the match because I was so proud of everyone.”
The Huskers began the two-match weekend with a 3-1 loss against No. 20 Ohio State Friday. It was the first time all season a team defeated the home team at the NU Coliseum.
In the first set of Sunday’s match it seemed its grind was nowhere to be found, according to NU head coach John Cook.
“We were in a funk … it couldn’t get much worse,” he said. “We just were playing like we have been.”
It wasn’t until the fourth and fifth set of the match where it seemed Nebraska, especially Werth, came alive. Before then, the senior’s numbers were far from glamorous.
In Nebraska’s 25-12 first set loss, Werth finished with a -.286, recording two errors and no kills on seven attacks. By the third set, Cook was forced to take his player out for the second time.
Although she went on to record seven kills in the second set to assist NU to a 32-30 win, Werth would go on to accumulate six more errors through the next two sets.
Instead of using the time off the court to frown on her mistakes, the 2011 All-American used the break to think of how to assist her team to a comeback win against the best team in the nation.
“It was a time to reflect … to realize that I need to get my stuff together and realize what I need to do for my team to help them out,” she said.
And the senior displayed all of that when she came back.
Though Werth wasn’t pleased with her play to begin the match, it’s not always the final numbers that tell the story, especially in Werth’s case.
The senior came through in the clutch for her team when they needed her the most.
In the fifth and final set, Werth nailed her ninth kill of the match to increase NU’s score on Penn State to 3-0. Its Big Ten opponent surged back to tie it at 3-3, but once again Werth’s lofty play helped the Huskers to a 4-3 advantage.
Her third kill in the set then pulled Nebraska to a 6-4 lead and the team never looked back. The Huskers went on to win the match by five and hand PSU its first conference loss of the season.
After losing two days prior for just the third time this season, the entire Cornhusker squad was more than content to finish the weekend with a 1-1 record.
Cook said the clutch play from NU’s outside hitters assisted the team to its 18th win of the season.
“You need your big players to make plays,” the coach said. “In game five, Hannah had three kills, Gina made some big kills … those kids stepped up and made some big plays.”
The win was the Huskers’ 10th conference win and marked the third time Nebraska has defeated a No. 1 team at home in two seasons.
When asked at Monday’s press-conference where this match ranks among previous defeats against top-ranked opponents, Werth said she wasn’t sure, but added that this one will be instilled in the memory of her and her teammates for a long time.
“It was a great feeling knowing we put everything out there and had nothing left,” Werth said. “It’s very satisfying. We’re very proud of ourselves for what we did.”