No. 3 Nebraska volleyball defeated Michigan State 3-1 for the ninth consecutive time on Sunday at the Devaney Center. The Huskers improved to 11-1 (2-0 Big Ten) this season with the win.
Sophomore outside hitter Lexi Sun led the way for the Huskers with 15 kills. Senior hitter Mikaela Foecke added a dozen kills of her own and hit .417 in the match.
Nebraska finished the match with 12 blocks. Sophomore blocker Lauren Stivrins had the most with one solo block and six assist blocks. Freshman blocker Callie Schwarzenbach and sophomore hitter Jazz Sweet each had five assist blocks.
The Huskers struggled at times, picking up 21 hitting errors and another seven from the service line. Head coach John Cook said that many mistakes could prove disastrous against opponents in the Big Ten.
“That’s just too many errors,” Cook said. “We have to clean that up.”
It took some time for the Huskers to pull away from the Spartans in the first set. Nebraska was able to climb to an 8-4 lead, but Michigan State kept it close, climbing within two at 9-7 off a kill by sophomore outside hitter Alyssa Chronowski. Nebraska responded with a three-point run to take a 12-7 lead, and the Spartans took a timeout.
The Huskers still struggled to pull away. Three errors by the Huskers allowed the Spartans to close the gap to 15-13, forcing head coach John Cook to call a timeout.
Sun heated up after the timeout, scoring three kills to help Nebraska expand its advantage back to five with a 21-16 lead. A net violation by the Spartans put the set away in favor of the Huskers. Nebraska took the first set 25-18. Both Foecke and Sun scored four kills in the first set.
Nebraska quickly jumped out to a 6-1 lead to open the second set and didn’t look back. The Huskers expanded their lead to 13-6 and outscored Michigan State 12-3 the rest of the set.
Nebraska’s defense was a major factor in their 25-9 set two win. The Huskers held the Spartans to a -.030 hitting percentage in set two and picked up four blocks.
“I thought our blocking defense was great,” Cook said. “It’s one thing [the other team] can’t prepare for. If you’re playing good defense, what’re they supposed to do?”
Michigan State got out to the quick start to open the third set. The Spartans jumped out to a 3-0 lead and held Nebraska at bay for a majority of the match. Trailing 13-9, the Huskers managed to put a three-point run together, but were still behind 13-12.
Nebraska toed the set at 14, but a 3-0 scoring run by the Spartans put the Huskers back in a hole. After the run by Michigan State, the Huskers never got within two points of the Spartans for the remainder of the set. An error by the Huskers ended the set and gave Michigan State a 25-21 win.
The Huskers had six errors and three service errors in set three. After stifling the Spartans offense in set two, Nebraska allowed the Spartans to hit .258 in set three. The Spartans had 13 kills in the third set, the most Michigan State had in any set of the match.
Nebraska jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the fourth set looking to put the match away. Michigan State climbed back within one at 8-7 after the Spartans challenged an attack error call and got it reversed to a kill.
The reversed call upset Cook and Husker fans in the Devaney Center and may have lit a spark in the Huskers. Nebraska went on a 6-0 scoring run following the reversal and took a 17-10 lead.
“Maybe they had an angle and saw something that nobody else could see,” Cook said about the call.
Nebraska ended the match on a 5-0 scoring run that included three kills by Sun. The Huskers won the set 25-16 to mark their 11th consecutive victory.
After the match, Cook said he was happy with the way his team responded after dropping the third set.
“It was good for us to respond that way,” Cook said. “Ideally, though, I’d like us not to have to respond. That’s one of the lessons taught though. In the Big Ten, it’s never over.”
The Huskers hit the road for their next two matches against Northwestern and Illinois. Nebraska will face Northwestern at 7 p.m. on Sept. 28 and will face No. 8 Illinois at 7 p.m. the following night.