The Nebraska Huskers volleyball team continued in its winning ways on Wednesday night as the Huskers swept Maryland in three sets to extend their winning streak to eight consecutive matches. The win pushes Nebraska to 21-4 on the season and 14-1 in Big Ten play.
Nebraska got off to a fast start in the first set as the team charged out to an early 12-4 lead. Maryland managed to claw back, bringing the score to 15-7, but the Terrapins wouldn’t get any closer than that. It was an emphatic first set for the Huskers who took the set 25-11.
Junior outside hitter Mikaela Foecke, senior outside hitter Annika Albrecht and redshirt freshman middle blocker Lauren Stivrins each recorded three kills in the opening set, helped along by senior setter Kelly Hunter’s 12 assists. Additionally, the Huskers recorded four aces to help the team through the initial set.
Maryland responded well to the early adversity by consistently holding a three-point advantage early in the second set. Facing a 10-6 deficit, the Huskers found themselves in a less-than-ideal position halfway through the set. They responded emphatically, going on a momentum-killing 8-0 run to regain control of the game. Nebraska finished the second set strongly, winning 25-15 to take a 2-0 lead on the night.
Following the intermission, Nebraska picked up right where it left off, taking an early 7-1 lead in the third set. With their backs against the walls, the Terrapins rallied, cutting the Huskers’ lead to 12-8. Nebraska slowly began to pull away, though, often trading two points for one. A last-grasp Terrapin rally brought the score to 24-16, but Albrecht’s set-winning kill gave the Huskers the 25-16 match win in the third set.
It was the second sweep in a row for the Huskers, as Maryland fell to 16-11 on the season and 5-10 in conference play.
Foecke led the way for the Huskers, recording eight kills with a hitting percentage of .467, in addition to her game-leading nine digs. Kelly Hunter was a versatile force for the Huskers, recording 34 assists, four aces, six digs and two blocks.
The stark contrast between the two teams’ performances was best illustrated in the difference between hitting percentages. Nebraska had a hitting percentage of .406 on the night, while Maryland only hit .081 over the three sets. A positive for the Huskers to take away from the win was their effectiveness in the serving department, as the team recorded 10 aces on the night.
Senior middle blocker Briana Holman also played an important role in the team’s success, recording seven kills and a hitting percentage of .545, but her crucial contribution came mid-way through the second set, when her thunderous spike turned the tides of the set and the game.
After the game, head coach John Cook was complimentary of the team’s efforts, but warned against the team underestimating Maryland when they play them on the road on Nov. 18.
“I thought our team did a nice job tonight and played some good volleyball,” Cook said in his postgame press conference. “The biggest thing we can take from this is that we’ll see a different Maryland team when we go there in ten days.”
He had special praise for freshman middle blocker Lauren Stivrins, who had a team-high nine kills and .636 hitting percentage.
“We have to be able to go to her. Her and Kelly [Hunter] are getting into a really nice rhythm, and it’s what we want to see all the time,” Cook said.
Stivrins was modest about her performance after the game, giving credit to the team instead.
“Everyone wants to get out there and play, and everyone is doing their best,” said Stivrins.
Nebraska will be back in action on Sunday, Nov. 12, when the Huskers play Rutgers at the Bob Devaney Sports Center. The game is scheduled for 2 p.m. and will air live on NET and BTN2Go.