No. 8 Nebraska volleyball took care of business Saturday night at the Devaney Center, sweeping the Rutgers Scarlet Knights for its second win in as many days.
It’s the first time the Huskers have won-back to-back matches since the team’s final win of their 14-match win streak on Oct. 3
“I think it was just nice to feel that feeling of winning and actually digging down deep and playing with our heart and competing as hard as we can to win,” senior libero Kenzie Maloney said after the undefeated weekend. “It’s just something we all needed to feel, and hopefully we can play like that for the rest of the season.”
With the win, Nebraska improved to 18-6 (9-5 Big Ten) on the season. Rutgers will continue its search for its first conference win as it fell to 6-20 (0-13 Big Ten) this season.
“I told them I was proud of them tonight as I was last night,” head coach John Cook said after the match. “This was a trap match for us. It could have been a let down. I thought we played really clean volleyball all night.”
The Huskers dominated in all areas of the game on Saturday. Nebraska hit .427 as a team, including .560 in the third set. Meanwhile, Rutgers only managed a hitting percentage of .024.
The Huskers also had six service aces to Rutgers’ three and twice as many blocks — holding a 12-6 advantage — as the Scarlet Knights. Nebraska out-dug Rutgers 37-19.
Senior outside hitter Mikaela Foecke led all players with 11 kills and four service aces. She had no errors and hit .524. Sophomore outside hitters Lexi Sun and Jazz Sweet earned seven and six kills respectively. The Huskers’ middle blockers, Lauren Stivrins and Callie Schwarzenbach, each got five kills, hitting .500 and .714 in the process, respectively. Stivrins added eight blocks while Schwarzenbach had four.
Rutgers did not stay in the first set for very long. The Scarlet Knights battled to an early 3-3 tie, but three kills by Sun helped put the Huskers up 9-4, prompting a Rutgers timeout.
Out of the timeout, the Scarlet Knights climbed back to within three points of the lead at 10-7. Nebraska quickly put an end to any hopes Rutgers may have had of taking a lead by going on a 10-3 run to take a commanding 20-10 lead. Foecke scored four kills during this stretch of the set.
Nebraska closed out the set on a 3-0 run with the final point coming courtesy of a Schwarzenbach kill to win set one 25-14.
In the second set, Rutgers put up more of a fight before Nebraska slammed the door yet again,y forcing the Huskers to play catch up in the early goings of the set.
After being outscored 6-5 early in the set, Nebraska switched into another gear, outscoring Rutgers 20-6 through the rest of the second set. The Huskers shutdown Rutgers’ offense, holding the Scarlet Knights to -.182 hitting in the second set. Nebraska allowed just five kills while Rutgers compiled nine attack errors in the set.
No Rutgers player had a positive hitting percentage in set two. Every Scarlet Knight hit either .000 or -.333 in the second set as Nebraska cruised to a 25-12 win.
“I thought the defense played really well,” Maloney said. “The block was setting up perfectly so it was easy for the back row to read around them and dig. Everything was just flowing.”
In set three, the Scarlet Knights would not see even the slight lead they saw in set two. The only tie came when each team had one point. The Huskers quickly erased hope as four Nebraska blocks helped the team take a 9-4 lead.
Sweet and freshman outside hitter Capri Davis came in off the bench and scored a quick pair of kills to help Nebraska maintain its 15-10 lead.
Rutgers managed to close the gap to four at 16-12, but Nebraska only allowed one more point through the rest of the match. The Huskers completed the sweep by taking the third set 25-13.
Before the end of the match, Davis would add two more kills to finish with four. Sophomore outside hitter Sami Slaughter also saw the floor, notching two kills, including the match-clincher, in the process. Senior setter Brooke Smith came in and saw action from the service line to close the match.
“It’s always good for morale when I can get a lot of players into the match as well,” Cook said.
Maloney agreed with her coach’s opinion.
“It’s awesome,” she said. “Our motto is we over me so I think getting that big lead so those players can come in, and then seeing them do well is something you always love to see. It was great to see them perform like that.”
The Huskers now hit the road again for its next four matches. First up on the trip is Iowa. The Huskers will take on the Hawkeyes on Wednesday night at 7 p.m., and the match will air on BTN.