Nebraska’s road trip ended with a trip back in time to head coach John Cook’s alma mater San Diego. The match between Nebraska and San Diego came close to the No. 2 Huskers dropping their first match of the season before they came out with the win.
The No. 25 San Diego Toreros fall to 2-3 on the season while the No. 2 Huskers improve to 4-0. Nebraska won the tough match 3-2 after falling behind 2-1 in the match against the Toreros. All five sets were close and proved to be Nebraska’s toughest match of the season so far.
Nebraska pulled out the win through the team finally coming together on both offense and defense in the fourth and fifth sets. Nebraska lost the third set 25-22 despite the Husker offense hitting .316 and having 17 kills. In the third set, a Nebraska opponent hit over .300 in a set for the first time this season.
The Toreros had 17 kills and hit .325 and the Nebraska defense seemed to be going down in a spiral while the offense was getting back on track. The Nebraska offense continued its turnaround with a .237 hitting percentage in the fourth set. The Huskers won the fourth set 25-22, but the vaunted Husker defense bounced back from its worst set of the year.
Nebraska had five blocks in the fourth set, including a big block by junior middle blocker Lauren Stivrins to extend the lead to 24-22. The block was a part of the 4-0 run Nebraska had to finish the set with junior outside hitter Lexi Sun having the three other kills in this run.
Sun’s return to her home in San Diego was an impressive showcase of her talents on Saturday. Sun had 24 points on 21 kills, one serving ace and four block assists. The performance came on an efficient .318 hitting percentage and she got her first double-double of the season with 12 digs.
The other Huskers to have a double-double was freshman Madi Kubik with her 11 kills and 16 digs. Sun and Kubik were part of the reason why Nebraska turned around its fortunes after the first three sets. Another major factor in the turnaround was Nebraska middle blocker Lauren Stivrins getting back in the groove.
Stivrins returned to her All-American numbers from last season as she had 18 points on 14 kills and eight block assists while hitting .393. Her best performance of the season came at the right time for Nebraska as she outperformed Toreros’ middle blocker Megan Jacobsen.
Jacobsen only had eight kills in five sets in Saturday’s match, a season low for her. Senior outside hitter Thana Fayad also struggled against Nebraska as she hit .125 and only 10 kills in the match. The duo came in average 3.5 kills per set for each but another Torero stepped up.
Freshman outside hitter Grace Frohling was a force for San Diego against Nebraska. She had 18 points on 17 kills and a .371 attack hitting percentage. Frohling’s kills were tied with sophomore outside Katie Lukes for most on San Diego. The performances from the two let the Toreros jump to a 2-1 lead despite Nebraska’s defense locking down the two upperclassmen.
Nebraska’s 25-22 win in the fourth set marked the third set of the match to end 25-22 as San Diego won two sets by this score. Now, Nebraska entered the fifth set for the first time since the 2018 national championship.
Unlike last year’s title game, Nebraska won the fifth set 15-11 behind its finest offensive performance yet. Nebraska hit .440 on 25 attack attempts while San Diego hit .320 on the same amount of attempts. The Huskers had 11 kills with Sun and Stivrins once again notching the final four points of the final set.
Sun’s 21st and final kill ended the match for Nebraska and the Huskers survived an upset scare from San Diego. The performance by Sun and Stivrins was extraordinary but the Nebraska offense once again went through slumps that almost cost it the match.
Next, Nebraska plays at the Ameritas Players Challenge at home next weekend. The Huskers play High Point University and Denver University on Friday and Loyola Marymount on Sunday.