On Friday night the No. 6 Nebraska Huskers (24-4, 16-3) took on the Maryland Terrapins (13-18, 5-14) at the Bob Devaney Sports Center. The match began just hours after Husker football’s heartbreaking 27-24 loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes, yet the Devaney Center was still packed at nearly full capacity. This was the Huskers’ second-to-last home game and regular season game of the year, with only a match against Ohio State on Saturday remaining. After a tough weekend of Big Ten play that included a loss to Wisconsin and a win against Minnesota, the Huskers defeated the Terrapins in three sets, 25-20, 25-15 and 25-18.
The Huskers are now 12-0 all-time against Maryland and 9-0 since it joined the Big Ten. The only other Big Ten team that the Huskers are undefeated against is the Iowa Hawkeyes who they are 28-0 against.
For head coach John Cook, playing on the day after Thanksgiving posed some difficulties.
“It’s a really weird week, with no school, and Thanksgiving, it just took a while to get back into things. We had good energy from the beginning though,” he said.
The Huskers won the first set 25-20 after struggling with Maryland the whole set. The set was a sloppy affair, which helped the Terrapins keep it close having the set tied at 7-7 and 14-14 and having it as close as 19-18 before the Huskers pulled away to take the win. The Huskers were able to sneak out the win late with the help of a Maryland error, back-to-back service aces by junior outside hitter Lexi Sun and a big kill by junior outside hitter Jazz Sweet. While Nebraska was far more consistent on the attack with a hit percentage of .292, compared to Maryland’s .087, the Huskers were weighed down by five serving errors.
“We got it done, but it looked like we were still at Thanksgiving dinner during the first set, but we played our way into it,” Cook said.
The Huskers struggled to gain control of the set early once again, but began to dominate later in the set. The Huskers won the second set 25-15 behind four kills from Lexi Sun who led the Huskers to a game-high 16 kills and .484 hitting percentage in the set.
The improvements for the Huskers from the first set to the second set were easy to spot.
“Nicklin (Hames) did a great job distributed tonight, once she gets going, we get going,” Cook said. “It makes it hard to gang up on people when you are so spread out like we can get.”
Overall, the second set was a much more complete and dominant performance by the Huskers in almost every facet of the game. After two sets the Huskers had a hitting percentage of .400, while the Terrapins lagged behind with a hit percentage of .118.
“We were more evenly distributing the ball, and no one was on the left side, so we were able to get it over to me,” said Sweet.
Just as in the first set, it felt as though for most of the set, the Huskers doing barely enough to survive, then turned it on later to claim the victory. The score was as close as 15-13, until the Huskers pulled away to win the third and final set 25-18. Sweet and freshman outside hitter Madi Kubik led the way for the Huskers with four kills each in the set.
Speaking on the win, Cook simply said, “any win in the Big Ten is a good win.”
After the win, the Huskers are now third in the Big Ten with a record of 16-3 behind only Wisconsin and Penn State.
Next up for the Huskers is their final regular season game of the year, a home matchup against Ohio State on Saturday, before the start of the NCAA Tournament.