No. 3 Nebraska volleyball opened Big Ten conference play with a win over No. 18 Michigan on Friday night in Lincoln. The Huskers defeated the Wolverines 3-1 in front of 8,392 fans at the Devaney Center.
Nebraska’s record now stands at 10-1 (1-0 Big Ten). Michigan’s loss was its first of the season and its record is 11-1 (0-1 Big Ten).
Senior outside hitter Mikaela Foecke led all players with 21 kills and she hit .396 on the night. Sophomore outside hitter Lexi Sun hit a double-double with 14 kills and a career high 16 digs. Sophomore outside hitter Jazz Sweet also reached double-digit kills with 11.
Carly Skjodt led Michigan with 13 kills.
As a team, the Huskers hit .314 on the night including .467 in the match-clinching fourth set. The Wolverines hit .135 for the match. Both teams struggled serving, with Nebraska finishing the night with 13 service errors and Michigan with 12.
“I thought we went in a little too amped up,” head coach John Cook said. “As the match went on we got in a better rhythm offensively and started playing some really good volleyball.”
It was service aces to start the match, however. A pair of aces by freshman setter Nicklin Hames helped Nebraska to an early 7-2 lead in the first set. Out of a Michigan timeout, the Wolverines used a service ace as part of a 6-1 run to tie the match at eight, and the Huskers called their first timeout of the match.
Tied at 11, Nebraska went on a three-point scoring run to go up 14-11. Michigan called another timeout, but couldn’t find the same success they had after their first timeout. Instead, the Huskers blocked their way to a 25-19 victory in set one. Nebraska had six blocks in the first set, including one by Foecke and freshman blocker Callie Schwarzenbach to end the set.
In set two, the Huskers again jumped out to a 7-2 lead, and again, Michigan rebounded. Trailing 9-5, the Wolverines scored 10 of the next 11 points to take a 15-10 lead. Nebraska had four attack errors during Michigan’s run.
“We were all over the place in the first two sets,” Cook said.
Down 16-11, the Huskers rallied to tie the match at 16. During the run, Sun scored two kills. After the match, Cook praised the sophomore’s performance in her Big Ten debut.
“I thought she did a pretty nice job,” Cook said. “She was taking pretty good swings and I thought she played some good defense.”
The Huskers and Wolverines went back and forth, but Nebraska fell behind 24-22. A service error kept by Michigan kept Nebraska alive and the Huskers tied the set at 24. Nebraska could not put the set away as Michigan scored three of the next four points courtesy of three kills by Skjodt and the Wolverines won set two 27-25.
Nebraska committed nine service errors in sets one and two. Foecke said that was a point of discussion during the intermission.
“I think our serving in the first two sets was very poor to say the least,” Foecke said. “We just went back out there with confidence and everybody stuck their serves.”
Nebraska came out in the third set once again jumped out to an early 6-3 lead. The Huskers lost the early lead, but then regained it and led 15-12 in the set at the media timeout. A kill by Foecke gave Nebraska a 20-16 lead and forced Michigan to take a timeout.
The Wolverines only scored one more point in the set after the timeout. A pair of kills by Sweet, one by Foecke and a pair of blocks by Foecke and Schwarzenbach clinched the third set 25-17 for Nebraska.
Sun shined the most in the final set of the match for Nebraska. The sophomore transfer scored six kills on seven swings in set four. Foecke added another five as Nebraska cruised to a 25-12 win in the fourth set to win the match 3-1.
Nebraska played well defensively throughout the match, finishing with 14 blocks in the match. The team also held Skjodt, the Wolverines leading attacker to a hitting percentage of just .184.
“I thought we did a great job with our blocking defense and controlling Michigan’s hitters,” Cook said.
The Huskers return to action against the Michigan State Spartans on Sunday. First serve is set for 2 p.m. and the match will air on ESPNU.