No. 7 Nebraska (5-1) erased a 2-0 deficit to beat in-state rival No. 14 Creighton (4-3) 3-2 in Omaha in a record-shattering thriller. The match set an NCAA attendance record for a volleyball regular season game as 14,022 people packed into the CHI Health Center Omaha. Nebraska’s senior Mikaela Foecke, freshman Capri Davis and Creighton’s senior Taryn Kloth set career-highs in kills, and Huskers senior Kenzie Maloney set a career-best in digs.
“They thoroughly outplayed us in the first two sets,” head coach John Cook said after the match. “I thought our team settled down after that and started playing more like Nebraska volleyball.”
The two sides got off to an even start as neither side gained more than a one-point advantage early in the first set. Freshman Capri Davis scored three early kills for the Huskers to help the team stay even with the Bluejays. Tied at nine, Nebraska went on a 4-0 run to take a 13-9 lead in the first set.
Creighton battled back, however, and, after a kill by the Bluejays’ Jaela Zimmerman, took a 17-16 lead. Nebraska would tie the set twice more after this point, but never regained the lead. Creighton’s Taryn Kloth scored her seventh kill of the match to clinch set one for the Bluejays 25-22.
The first set included 12 ties and four lead changes. Nine of the ties came before either team reached 10 points.
The second set, on the other hand, only included one tie and the Huskers never had the lead in the second set. The lone tie came after two kills and a service ace by Foecke eliminated a 4-1 lead by Creighton early in the set.
After this point, the second set was dominated by the Bluejays. Creighton went on a 7-0 scoring run to take a 15-7 lead and Nebraska never came within four points of the lead for the remainder of the set. The Huskers lost the second set 25-19 and headed into the intermission needing to win the remaining three sets to leave Omaha with a victory.
Nebraska came out of the break and looked like a completely different team. The Huskers led the entirety of the third set after they had not led since being up 16-15 in the first set.
Nebraska got off to a quick start in set three as two service aces by freshman Megan Miller and two errors by Creighton gave the Huskers a 4-0 lead. Errors continued to be a problem for the Bluejays throughout the rest of set. In the first two sets, Creighton had only six attack errors, but had 10 in third set alone. The Bluejays also had a hitting percentage of just .023 in the set three.
Nebraska took advantage of Creighton’s mistakes to win the third set 25-18. Much like how it started, the Huskers won the set on a service ace by Miller to force a fourth set.
Foecke said after the match what the team did differently to help swing the momentum.
“We talked about the little things that we can control like communication, eye contact and energy,” Foecke said. “Those things were lacking in the first two sets. Once we improved those, our game improved as well.”
In set four, Nebraska continued to hang onto their momentum and shot out to a 7-3 lead. Out of a Creighton timeout, the teams traded points back and forth with the Bluejays chipping one point off the Huskers’ lead to make it 17-14 in Nebraska’s favor.
After a Nebraska timeout, each team went on their own 3-0 runs to make it 21-17. Two Husker errors brought Creighton within two points of the lead, and the Bluejays came close to ending Nebraska’s comeback bid.
The Huskers were able to stave off defeat, however, and Foecke’s 20th kill of the match gave Nebraska the set victory 25-22. This sent the in-state rivals to a decisive fifth set to determine a winner.
Foecke continued to dominate in the fifth set. The senior opened the final set with a kill on her way to scoring five kills and two ace serves in the set to help Nebraska complete the comeback. An ace serve by fellow team captain and senior Kenzie Maloney put the game away for the Huskers. Creighton never held a lead in the final set.
Cook praised his team’s two captains after the comeback.
“They got this team playing,” Cook said of Foecke and Maloney. “Relaxed or whatever it was, I’m not sure, but that’s the magic of being a leader. I’m really proud of Kenzie and Mikaela for the job they did leading.”
In addition to her career high 25 kills, Foecke scored 13 digs to earn her fourth double-double of the season. Davis also set a career high in kills in her young career. The freshman recorded 18 kills in the match, besting her previous high of eight against Santa Clara earlier this year. Sophomore Jazz Sweet also reached double-digit kills with 12. Maloney’s 25 digs topped her previous career high of 22 against Saint Mary’s last season. Creighton’s Kloth led all players with 26 kills to beat her previous career best by one.
Nebraska returns home for a match against Iowa State on Sunday, Sept. 9. The match with be broadcast on ESPNU and is scheduled for a 1 p.m. first serve.