After a handled 3-0 sweep over Michigan on Friday night, No. 12 Nebraska knew a sweep over Michigan State wouldn’t come just as easy.
“Game one we really came out attacking,” Nebraska volleyball head coach John Cook said postgame. “The next two were kind of sluggish. But it was really good volleyball. We wanted to get in rallies with them and we did. It’s a good win for us.”
The Huskers finished the afternoon with 41 kills, seven blocks and a hitting percentage of .250. Leading the way for Nebraska was junior outside hitter Madi Kubik, who finished with 10 kills, eight digs and a hitting percentage of .219.
Behind Kubik, freshman outside hitter Lindsay Krause had nine kills and a hitting percentage of .304. Senior middle blocker Lauren Stivrins finished third for Nebraska in kills with seven and a hitting percentage of .333. Senior middle blocker Kayla Caffey also finished the day with six kills and a hitting percentage of .231.
Freshman libero Lexi Rodriguez also achieved a notable fead, ending the night with 17 digs. This was Rodriguez’s most in her last six matches.
“She’s a crucial leader of our defense,” Kubik said postgame. “She sets the tone and that’s the Rodi we see every day in practice. She showed it today which is really important.”
The Huskers struck quickly in the first set, going up 5-1 within the blink of an eye. Following two straight points by the Spartans, Nebraska built upon its lead by dropping three straight points. After a Michigan State timeout, the Huskers recommenced the bombardment, delivering a swift 7-2 run before the Spartans called another timeout.
With the score now 15-5, things were spiraling out of control for the Spartans. Michigan State chipped into the lead with a 4-2 stand to make it 17-9 and saved its final stand when Nebraska took a 23-12 lead.. The Spartans took a 4-0 run and made it 23-16, leading to Nebraska’s first timeout of the match.
The timeout was what was needed for Nebraska to put the first set away, as it secured the final two kills to win 25-16.
“Every day in practice we talk about making a transition from good to great to unstoppable,” Kubik said. “At this time, we still need to go from good to great. Obviously, this weekend shows we’re taking those steps and it’s really exciting.”
Michigan State, at first, wasn’t giving the Huskers an easy start in set two, despite Nebraska leading for most of the start. The Spartans’ grit was exemplified with an extended rally which led to a Michigan State point, making it 4-3. This led to multiple ties throughout the first half of the second set with both teams trying to break loose from the stalemate.
After the score was tied at 10, Krause took advantage of an attack error by the Spartans and snatched a kill to put her team up 12-10. Resuming after a Michigan State timeout, the momentum appeared to be starting back up for the Huskers as they proceeded to make the score 15-10.
The Spartans weren’t seemingly out just yet, however. Although it didn’t force a tie, Michigan State cut into the lead and grew as close as 17-15 in the deficit. After replicating the deficit with 18-16, Nebraska punched the lead out to 20-16, trying to take set two.
Following a 23-18 Husker lead, the Spartans called a timeout, hoping to find a way to bounce back. But the Huskers wouldn’t allow such an attempt, as they shut down set two with a score of 25-19.
Before set three began, the 2000 and 2001 Nebraska volleyball teams were honored as part of the Weekend of Champions at the Devaney Center. Cook appreciated the weekend because it helped reflect the team’s overall theme for the season.
“Our roots run deep,” Cook said. “The three teams that came over the weekend show great tradition, great success and great people. To reflect on what they did was pretty cool.”
The third set began much like set two, a back-and-forth bout between teams. After ties from the third to the seventh point, Michigan State seemed to have an opportunity to take off with a lead when it went up 9-7. But three quick points by the Huskers and a point by the Spartans tied things up at 10. After tying at 11, Stivrins dropped two fast points for Nebraska to give her team a 13-11 lead.
Following a Michigan State timeout, the Huskers continued to build and hold their lead even with the Spartans in hot pursuit. Soon enough, Michigan State called another timeout as the score became 19-14. Much like set two, as Nebraska got closer to the setpoint, the Spartans wouldn’t go away just yet.
The Huskers then took their timeout at 21-17. Much like set two, Nebraska finished the third set with dominance, this time with a score of 25-20.
With the sweep, the Huskers are now 10-3 on the season and 4-0 in conference play. The team’s next match will be a road battle against No. 14 Penn State on Friday, Oct. 8, its first match in Happy Valley since 2018. This’ll be Nebraska’s first big test in conference play as Penn State is coming off a win against Big Ten foe No. 3 Ohio State.
“We have a rhythm,” Cook said. “We understand our roles and just everything. Our freshmen have gotten really comfortable so I think we’re ready. It’s going to be a great test.”
The match will begin at 6 p.m. and can be viewed on the Big Ten Network.