The No. 3-ranked Nebraska volleyball team fell to the No. 5 Minnesota Golden Gophers 3-1 Saturday night at the Devaney Center, snapping a 14-game winning streak and giving the Huskers their first loss in Big Ten conference play.
Nebraska’s record now stands at 14-2 (5-1 in the Big Ten) this year.
Minnesota is now the lone unbeaten school in Big Ten play in 2018. The Gophers sit at 12-2 overall and a perfect 6-0 in the conference after the win on Saturday.
Minnesota freshman hitter Adanna Rollins led all players with 17 kills in the match. Senior hitter Mikaela Foecke led Nebraska with 16. Sophomore hitters Jazz Sweet and Lexi Sun as well as sophomore blocker Lauren Stivrins finished in with double-digit kills with 13, 12 and 10, respectively.
As a group, the Huskers hit .194 on the night and had 21 attacking errors. Nebraska also had little success from the service line with just one ace and six errors. Minnesota on the other hand hit .280 and four service aces. They also had four players reach double-digit kills.
“Tonight, we got punched,” head coach John Cook said after the match.
The Gophers started the match off hot. Minnesota junior blocker Taylor Morgan scored three early kills to help her team take a 7-2 lead, forcing Nebraska to take a timeout.
The Huskers put some offense of their own together out of the timeout. Nebraska trimmed the Gophers’ lead to two following a kill by Stivrins and trailed 8-6. Minnesota extended its lead back to 13-9 before the Huskers rattled off three points in a row to bring themselves within one point of the lead.
After working its way back into the game, Nebraska put itself right back in a hole. A 4-0 scoring run for the Gophers that included three errors by the Huskers gave Nebraska a 17-12 deficit to try to climb out of.
Nebraska’s comeback bid fell short. The Gophers scored four of the last five points in the set to win it 25-20. Minnesota hit .350 in the opening set compared to the Huskers .167. Nebraska also had seven errors in the first set, more than twice the number the Gophers had.
The second set saw Nebraska get off to the fast start, as an early 4-0 scoring run gave the Huskers a 7-3 lead. After a block by Sun put Nebraska up 10-5, Minnesota scored three in a row to make the score 10-8.
The Huskers tried to keep the Gophers at bay, but a kill by Minnesota’s Regan Pittman tied the set at 16 and, on the next point, a kill by Rollins gave Minnesota a 17-16 lead. Nebraska tied the match back up at 18, but a service error by Stivrins gave the lead right back to Minnesota.
Down 21-19, the Huskers blocked back-to-back attacks by Minnesota to tie the set at 21. A Gopher attacking error put Nebraska in the lead on the next point, and the Huskers hung on to win set two 25-23.
Nebraska notched six blocks and held Minnesota to just a .11 hitting percentage in the second set. Foecke led the way with seven kills in the second set to help Nebraska even up the match at one set apiece.
The third set appeared like it would go right down to the wire much like the second set when it began. The teams traded the first 18 points back and forth to reach a 9-9 tie. Two straight kills by Morgan put the Gophers up 11-9 before Nebraska cut the lead back to one off a kill by Foecke at 12-11.
And then everything went wrong for Nebraska.
Minnesota embarked on an 11-0 scoring run to take a 23-11 advantage and completely stifled
both the crowd and any chance Nebraska had of winning the set. The run included three ace serves by the Gophers and four attacking errors by the Huskers. A kill by Stivrins finally put an end to Nebraska’s scoring drought, but it was too little too late.
Minnesota won the third set 25-14 and needed just one more set to leave the Devaney Center with a win. Nebraska hit a dismal .030 with just eight kills and seven errors in the set while Minnesota managed a .256 hitting percentage.
“We’ve got to learn how to respond better,” Cook said after the match about Minnesota’s run.
The Huskers continued to struggle in the fourth set. With the teams knotted up at 4-4, MInnesota scored four points in a row to take an 8-4 lead. The Gophers would not surrender that lead, and saw it increase to a much as seven before the end of the match.
A kill by Minnesota senior setter Samantha Seliger-Swenson sealed the 25-21 win for the Gophers. That kill was one of 20 for Minnesota in the final set of the night. The Gophers hit .486 as a team in the fourth set to put the game away.
Nebraska will stay in Lincoln for its next match against the Indiana Hoosiers on Oct. 10. The match will air on the Big Ten Network and is slated to start at 7 p.m.