A new star emerged for Nebraska in its dominant win over Purdue. Freshman outside hitter Madi Kubik transformed her hype into a career night with 22 kills, tying Husker legend Mikaela Foecke’s freshman high.
No. 5 Nebraska beat No. 20 Purdue 3-1 and won 25-21, 25-16 and 25-15 in its set wins. This was Nebraska’s third consecutive match of holding an opponent below .100 hitting percentage and it was another stepping stone for Kubik.
Kubik’s performance began almost immediately in the first set. Kubik’s first kill of the night extended the Huskers lead to 5-3. That was the first of seven kills she had in the first set, which was half of her former career-high.
A sluggish start in the first set was nowhere to be seen for Nebraska as it held on to at least a four point cushion throughout the set. Junior middle blocker Lauren Stivrins was an offensive force as she had five kills on a .667 hitting clip, but more importantly kept Purdue in check as she was double teamed for the entire match.
“You kind of have to credit to Lauren too, she took a lot of the block tonight and made it easy for us to move the ball around and give it to other people,” sophomore setter Nicklin Hames said.
The Huskers’ first set domination was on defense as Purdue’s best offensive weapons struggled. Senior middle blocker Blake Mohler and sophomore middle blocker Grace Cleveland combined for two kills. The two averaged almost six kills per set coming into the night.
Purdue’s offensive woes continued into the second set, where it lost 25-16. Unlike the first set, Nebraska cleaned up its serving errors and any point for the Boilermakers was a battle. For Nebraska, the offense was flying high.
“Madi was hitting great tonight and I was finding her in a lot of spots,” Hames said. “When they’re hot like that, you keep giving them the ball.”
Kubik had six kills in the second set, good for half of Nebraska’s second set kills, and the Huskers hit .391 in the second set. That was all despite lackluster offensive starts from junior outside hitters Lexi Sun and Jazz Sweet. Sun and Sweet had six combined kills through two sets.
The Husker defense derailed the Boilermaker offense and Purdue fell off the tracks in the second set. Purdue hit .099 in the match, the worst of its season, and the second set was Purdue’s worst offensive set of the match. The Boilermakers hit .059 and had 10 kills.
Purdue had six attack errors in the second set and also struggled on the serve. The Huskers had three serving aces on top of a dominant performance. Nebraska led 2-0 and was on cruise control heading into the third set.
Nebraska continued its momentum into the third set until Purdue called a timeout down 10-5.
Following the timeout, Purdue fired off a quick 6-1 run to tie it up at 11. The quick run was led by junior outside hitter Caitlyn Newton and freshman outside hitter Emma Ellis, who each had two kills to tie the match. The match turned into a back-and-forth affair between the two.
“We were up and I think they thought it was over and we let them back in it,” head coach John Cook said. “We hung tough but this team’s got to learn to grind every point.”
Purdue’s resilient third set was aided by a much improved defense. The Boilermakers limited Kubik to three kills and Nebraska hit .077, a massive dip from the first two sets. Kubik and Sweet had seven of the 11 attack errors for Nebraska.
Despite the offensive dropoff, the Husker defense kept up the heat and the Boilermakers were never able to take over the match. That left the door open for Nebraska to potentially steal the third set and get another sweep.
Nebraska’s comeback fell short as Purdue won 25-23. The Boilermakers led 24-20 and a kill from senior Shavona Cuttino ended the match. That was Cuttino’s only kill of the set and her last of seven kills she had against the Huskers.
The fourth set started off tight in a match paced by offense. Kubik had a resurgent fourth set as she had three kills in the first seven points. The set was close until Nebraska broke the deadlock at nine.
The Huskers went on a 9-2 run to take a commanding 18-11 lead. Despite struggles earlier in the match, Sun had five kills and a block in the final set, including three kills during the 9-2 run.
Two timeouts were called by Purdue during that run but they proved to not work. The Boilermakers ran out of steam as Nebraska was not letting up. The Huskers saved their best offensive set for last, as five Huskers had kills.
Kubik’s final kill gave Nebraska a 22-14 lead. Kubik had several chances to break Foecke’s freshman high of 22 kills in a game, but could not capitalize. Hames delivered the final blow with a kill to give Nebraska the 25-15 win.
“How they responded in game four was probably our best game,” Cook said.
Nebraska next travels to Maryland on Oct. 19 to begin another road trip.