Nebraska vs. Minnesota Photo No. 8

Nebraska’s Kayla Caffey (3) and Lexi Sun (11) jump to block the ball during the match against Minnesota on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The Nebraska volleyball team swept Michigan (25-19, 25-15, 25-13) on Friday to improve to 14-2 on the season.

After a 3-1 win in the first match of the back-to-back on Thursday, the Huskers overwhelmed the Wolverines in the rematch to take each set by a sizable margin.

Nebraska’s offense was carried by a team-leading 10 kills from both of its middle blockers, and neither committed an error all night. Junior Kayla Caffey and senior Lauren Stivrins hit .769 and .714, respectively.

On the right pin, senior opposite Jazz Sweet built off of last week’s solid offensive output,tallying nine kills and hitting .533.As a team, the Huskers hit .362 on the match, greatly surpassing Michigan’s .074 hitting efficiency.

Tough serving frequently led to long scoring runs for Nebraska in Friday’s match. Despite seven service errors, the Huskers added seven aces and put constant pressure on Michigan’s passers.

Michigan managed to contain Nebraska’s left sides, however. Senior outside hitter Lexi Sun was held to .077 hitting. She and sophomore outside hitter Madi Kubik were both held to six kills.

Sophomore libero Kenzie Knuckles led all players with 16 digs. Kubik was second on the team in the category with nine.

Like Thursday’s match, the Wolverines were led offensively by freshman outside hitter Jess Mruzik. Her 12 kills led all players, and she also led her team with 10 digs. Michigan could not find balance, though, with junior outside hitter Paige Jones second for Michigan in kills with just five.

The Huskers opened the match with a pair of blocks. Michigan rallied back with three straight points before Nebraska got a sideout after a Wolverine error. Kills by Hames and Kubik gave the Huskers an early 6-4 lead, and the competitive start to the match continued as both teams battled to a 9-9 tie.

A block and an overpass kill gave Nebraska a 12-9 advantage. The Huskers maintained their three-point lead into the media timeout.

Caffey scored on the slide immediately after the break. Another kill by the middle blocker brought the score to 18-14. Michigan then went on a 3-0 run on the serve of freshman setter Scottee Johnson. The Huskers would quickly respond with their own 3-0 run, forcing a Michigan timeout.

Nebraska then slammed the door on the first set. A Hames dump ended the set at 25-19 in favor of the Huskers.

It was another competitive start to the second set before Nebraska broke through for a 4-2 lead. Michigan then took a 6-5 lead following an ace from redshirt freshman libero Hannah Grant. 

It was Nebraska’s serving that would be a difference-maker, though. A series of tough balls from Knuckles behind the line gave the Huskers an 11-8 lead. Kubik added an ace to extend the lead to 14-10.

Caffey added another pair of kills after the media timeout as Nebraska’s lead grew to 17-12. A block from Sweet and a back-row kill from Kubik forced Michigan’s first timeout.

Michigan failed to respond out of the timeout as the Huskers ran away with the second set. A 6-0 run behind Hames’ service helped Nebraska claim a 25-15 win and a 2-0 advantage in the match.

Unlike the first two sets, Nebraska took an early advantage in the decisive third set and didn’t let go. An ace from Kubik and a Stivrins slide kill gave Nebraska a quick 5-2 lead. Kubik added another ace after a Michigan hitting error to extend the lead to five. The Huskers carried a commanding 15-8 lead into the media timeout.

Nebraska did not waver after the break. Michigan used a timeout after Stivrins crushed an overpass to give the Huskers a nine-point lead. The Wolverines could never get in a rhythm, and the Huskers cruised to a 25-13 win to secure a sweep.

The Huskers are scheduled to play Penn State at the Devaney Center next week in a two-match series to wrap up the regular season. That series is in jeopardy, however, with Penn State’s matches being canceled this week due to COVID-19 issues within its program.

If next week’s home series is canceled, Nebraska will turn toward awaiting its NCAA Tournament fate.