It’s the second week of regular-season volleyball action for No. 4 Nebraska, and the second straight week at home for competition. Coming off a sweep against Colgate and a 3-1 victory over Kansas State last weekend, the Huskers enter this week looking to build momentum.
“We have three great teams to play this weekend,” head coach John Cook said at Monday’s press conference. “It’ll be a little more challenging playing two matches Friday and then another big one Saturday night.”
The sweep against Colgate had many moments to acknowledge, including a 25-11 win in set three, but the match against Kansas State showed what Nebraska was capable of.
After winning sets one and two, the Huskers suffered a devastating 25-11 set-three loss. Nebraska was seemingly going to drop set four as Kansas State jumped to a quick lead. However, trailing by six, Nebraska slowly found the spark to bounce back.
After being behind 12-6 the Huskers brought in sophomore setter Anni Evans, who jump-started the team and helped turn the tides. Nebraska took the set and the match in spectacular fashion, winning 25-22.
“We got down and had to fight back,” Cook said. “It was great for our team to know they can do that, but we still have a lot to work on. We’re still trying to figure out the lineup. Anni showed we got a lot of players to play.”
As a team, the Huskers finished the invitational with 163 points, 91 kills, and an attack percentage of .238, offensively. Defensively, Nebraska finished with 113 digs and 20 blocks.
Senior outside hitter Lexi Sun led the Huskers in kills with 21. Behind Sun, junior outside hitter Madi Kubik and freshman outside hitter Lindsay Krause each had 18 kills. Senior middle blocker Kayla Caffey finished with 16 kills and the team’s highest attack percentage with .682.
On the defensive side, senior middle blocker Callie Schwarzenbach led the Huskers in blocks with 13. Krause followed behind with seven, Caffey totaled six and Sun had five. Freshman libero Lexi Rodriguez led Nebraska in digs with 36, earning her Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week and high praise from Cook.
“[Rodriguez] is so good at reading the ball,” Cook said. “She plays at a very high level, which is why she earned the libero jersey. She’s the best passer by far, and I said the best passer is going to play.”
For the Ameritas Players Challenge, Nebraska has unique match-ups with each of its opponents. Kicking off the weekend, the Huskers will go toe-to-toe with the University of Nebraska Omaha for the first time at the Devaney Center. Through 17 all-time matches, Nebraska is 16-1 and only has faced Omaha once in the 21st century. The last battle between the Huskers and Mavericks was in 2017, where Nebraska swept UNO.
As for Georgia, it’s a long-awaited battle between siblings as senior middle blocker Lauren Stivrins will be seeing her younger sister, Amber, play for the Bulldogs.
“Georgia was supposed to come last year,” Cook said. “We delayed it a year, but the sister connect for Lauren is there. Georgia wants to come up here and play so it’s great.”
Not only have the sisters yet to face each other on the collegiate level, but this’ll be Stivrins’ first day of competition for the season. Senior setter Nicklin Hames will also be returning for the weekend, after missing last week due to injury, according to Cook.
The Huskers last met Georgia in 2013, where they swept the Bulldogs and are 5-0 all-time in the matchup. Rounding out the weekend, Arizona State will also be visiting the Devaney Center for the first time ever. The two schools have met five times, yet never at Arizona State. Nebraska leads the all-time series against the Sun Devils 3-1-1 record
As for the team, Cook is ready to let the whole team prove themselves and show what they’re made of, much like what Evans did against Kansas State.
“With three matches, our players will get opportunities to play,” Cook said. “We want to play everybody and see what they can do. It’s great for them to know they can go in and do something like what Anni did.”
The Huskers open up against UNO on Friday, Sep. 3, with the first serve set for 11 a.m., followed by Georgia at 6 p.m., before concluding the invite against Arizona State on Saturday at 6 p.m.