The Huskers set off the final month of the regular season strong with a sweep against conference opponent Rutgers Friday night.
Nebraska finished with 50 kills, along with a hitting percentage of .384. Junior outside hitter Lexi Sun led the charge for the Huskers with 12 kills, followed by fellow junior Jazz Sweet with 10, and sophomore Callie Schwarzenbach with nine.
“When everyone comes in to hit, you can feel their energy,” Sweet said. “They come in to compete. They grind really hard, and it’s really great to see the work that they’ve put in show.”
During warm-ups, the team wore black shirts with the number four and the last name Leclair on the back, along with the statement, “With each other, for each other.” The shirts honored the late Dane Leclair, a graduate student and manager for the team who passed on Sunday. Along with the shirts, a moment of silence was held for him prior to the match.
“I saw a few of the girls crying during the moment of silence,” head coach John Cook said. “It’s been an emotional week. Once the match started though, they were really able to get into volleyball mode. They were enjoying themselves, which is something I haven’t seen all week.”
Right out of the gate, the Huskers overwhelmed Rutgers at the net for the entire first set. With kills coming left and right, it seemed like a nightmare after Halloween for the Scarlet Knights. Along with the offensive beatdown, the defense also played their part, holding Rutgers to a hitting percentage of .000. The Huskers would take the opening set 25-10, with 18 kills and a hitting percentage of .500.
“I was surprised with that start,” Cook said. “It’s new territory for us with what happened Sunday, but we got a couple of choices on how to handle it, and they handled it well.”
The second set was the same as the Huskers started things off with an 11-0 run, not showing any signs of slowing down. Sun would finish off the set with the team’s 34th kill to make it 25-10.
Rutgers would not go away quietly, as the Scarlet Knights gave the Huskers a fight in the third set. Although Rutgers kept it close, Nebraska won the set 25-20 to finish the 3-0 sweep.
“We played clean volleyball,” Cook said. “We served and passed well. We were ball handling well. Game three got a little sloppy, but that’s a natural let down when you’re winning so easily. The big thing is though, they gave a great effort tonight.”
The Huskers are now 17-3 on the season and 9-2 in conference play. They will face a bigger test tomorrow night, as they will face the West Division leader and rival Penn State.
“For us and Penn State, we just go for it,” Sweet said. “We always go hard ever since I got here with them. It’s a rivalry. It’s another level of intensity.”
“It’s another great match in the Big Ten,” Cook said. “Everybody’s always hyped for Penn State. For us it’s an important match for both teams. Fans call it a rivalry, to me it’s two great programs going at it. They have physical athletes. They’re relentless on defense. It’s typical Penn State, and it should be a great match.”
The match will begin at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at the Devaney Center.