Volleyball vs Louisville Photo No. 17

Nebraska’s Nicklin Hames (1) goes for the serve during their match against Louisville at the Bob Devaney Sports Center on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Nebraska volleyball capped a successful East Coast road trip on Sunday afternoon with a 25-19, 25-9, 25-12 sweep of Rutgers.

The triumph came without senior middle blocker Kayla Caffey, who did not play the match due to a lingering illness. Head coach John Cook confirmed on his postgame interview on the Husker Radio Network that her absence was not COVID-19 related.

“She’s been feeling under the weather all week,” Cook said postgame. “We did test her for COVID and it was negative.”

While the offense struggled early for the Huskers, the team overcame Caffey’s absence and  coasted to its sixth win in a row and fifth sweep in six matches.

It took until the second half of the first set for Nebraska to find its rhythm against Rutgers. Five early attack errors held the Huskers back, but they were able to draw the first Scarlet Night timeout after gaining a 16-11 lead. Rutgers would respond. The Scarlet Knights outscored the Huskers 5-1 to cut the Nebraska advantage to one at 17-16. 

Both teams hit below .200 in the first set as Nebraska was hampered greatly by nine attack errors. But, the Huskers made up for it at the service line with five aces in the set, including the set point on an ace by junior defensive specialist Kenzie Knuckles, giving Nebraska a 25-19 victory.

“They were having a hard time with our servers and so credit to our players for really attacking with their serves,” Cook said.

In the last two matches, Nebraska has out-aced its opponents 31-6 and has also won the service error battle 27-30.

Nebraska got out to a strong start in the second. Several Rutgers miscues, including back-to-back attacking errors by senior outside hitter Anastasiia Maksimova and an out of rotation error by the Scarlet Knights, gave Nebraska a 13-4 lead. The Huskers would continue their dominance with a 4-1 scoring run to make it 17-5 Nebraska and force another Scarlet Knight timeout punctuated by a slam from Husker junior outside hitter Madi Kubik.

Nebraska cleaned things up in the attack with only three errors. Its hitting percentage in the set was .216, improving the Huskers’ match mark to .167. In contrast, Nebraska held Rutgers to a .016 hitting percentage through two sets. The Huskers added in four more service aces en route to a 25-9 second set victory.

The Huskers did not skip a beat in the third. Back-to-back kills for Kubik, her ninth and tenth of the match, gave the Huskers a 11-6 lead and Rutgers called a timeout. Rutgers would draw within four off of its first service ace of the match by Maksimova to make it 12-8 Nebraska, but the Huskers would regain their footing.

After the Maksimova ace, the Huskers outscored the Scarlet Knights 13-4. Nebraska won the third set 25-12 and the match 3-0. Nebraska ended the match hitting .255 compared to Rutgers’ .042. Following the nine attack errors in the first set, Nebraska only had seven the rest of the way. The Huskers also controlled the service line with ten aces to Rutgers’ one, while Nebraska had four service errors compared to seven errors for Rutgers. 

Leading the way for the Huskers was Kubik with 11 kills on 25 swings. Just behind her was freshman outside hitter Lindsay Krause with nine kills on 19 swings and only a single error that came in the final six points of the third set. Freshman libero Lexi Rodriguez also had a standout performance leading all players in the match with 17 digs and adding two service aces as well.

“As the match went on, we got better and I just thought our serving dictated the whole match,” Cook said.

Nebraska is now 6-0 in conference play, good for first in the Big Ten. The Huskers have won six matches in a row for an overall record of 12-3 and turn their attention to home matches against Indiana on Wednesday and Illinois on Saturday.