With the three-game losing skid over following the 3-1 win over Northwestern, the No. 12 Nebraska volleyball team picked up where it left off with a 3-0 sweep against conference rival Iowa.
As a team, the Huskers dropped 48 kills, 51 digs, six blocks and a hitting percentage of .267. Leading the way for Nebraska on the day was junior outside hitter Madi Kubik with 15 kills, 14 digs and a hitting percentage of .189. Behind Kubik on the statsheet was freshman outside hitter Lindsey Krause with 12 kills and a hitting percentage of .500. This is Krause’s second straight match with a hitting percentage of .500.
“She’s getting more comfortable,” Nebraska head coach John Cook said postgame. “She does all the things freshmen don’t typically do. She’s a warrior and she’s gotten really comfortable with her spot. She just competes hard everyday.”
After starting the match off with a net violation, Nebraska bounced back immediately, setting the tone for the first set. Putting the pressure on Iowa, the Huskers unleashed a massive 8-1 run, before the Hawkeyes called a timeout. The run even included a remarkable diving save by sophomore defensive specialist Keonilei Akana, which led to a Kubik kill.
Iowa came out of the timeout swinging, dropping a 3-1 run to make the deficit 9-5. But Nebraska didn’t take a comeback attempt lightly, responding with five straight to go up 14-5. The Hawkeyes, at first, made their response by forcing the score to 15-9, then 16-10, then 17-12. Yet the Huskers refused to let Iowa get any closer than five, and even stretched the lead to eight before another timeout was called by the Hawkeyes.
With the score now 21-13, Nebraska knew it was time to wrap up set one. Although Iowa earned four more points, it wasn’t enough, as senior middle blocker Callie Schwarzenbach sunk the final kill to take the first set 25-17.
“I’m really proud of the way we can keep composure when things get tight,” Kubik said postgame. “It’s not perfect every time, but we’re starting to have a deep trust with one another and find ways to make it work.”
The Hawkeyes wanted to take control in set two as they grabbed themselves a quick 3-1 lead. But the Huskers responded quickly by tying the score at four. Then, Nebraska took the lead, and the heated battle commenced.
After tying the score at six, Iowa retook the lead. However, the Huskers replied by tying the score at seven. The Hawkeyes countered the tie with two points of their own to make it 9-7. Soon enough, however, Nebraska tied things back up, this time at 11. The Huskers seemingly regained control of the set after tying multiple times from the 11th point to the 15th.
At first, Nebraska held off Iowaas it reached closer and closer to set point. But the Hawkeyes refused to go down, as they soon tied the score once again, this time at 23. Coming off a timeout, the Huskers watched as an Iowa service error gave them the opportunity to put set two away.
Unfortunately for the Huskers, Iowa was able to put the pressure on Nebraska to tie it back up. That was until Kubik dropped another kill in to take the lead and senior setter Nicklin Hames fired one down to take the second set 26-24.
“Iowa competed hard today,” Cook said. “We started off strong in the first set, but kind of let up and were sloppy in sets two and three. But I thought we did a fantastic job mixing things up and found ways to get kills.”
Set three started up much like set two for both teams. After going up 3-1, then 4-2, Iowa attempted to build the lead further, going up 5-2. The Huskers chipped into the growing lead, however, and were able to prevent it from becoming too big of a deficit.
Eventually, Nebraska caught up to Iowa at the 10-point mark, before flipping the table on the Hawkeyes. With the Huskers now in the lead, it was now Iowa which was playing catch-up. Much like set two, Nebraska continued into the latter half of the set with the Hawkeyes in pursuit.
Following a timeout, Iowa made a final attempt to get back into the match, cutting its 21-17 deficit to 21-20. But the Huskers were onto the Hawkeyes, as they shut down the comeback. This closeout was demonstrated by a Kubik kill that came after an extended rally that saw freshman libero Lexi Rodriguez collide with the media stand for a save.
“You have this mindset of, that ball’s not hitting the floor,” Cook said. “One of the reasons we played the lineup of Kenzie [Knuckles], Lexi [Rodriguez], Akana and Nicklin is because they can fly around and make plays. It keeps rallies alive and makes it hard for the other team to get kills.”
Nebraska then put the set and match away with a 25-21 win to complete the sweep. With this win, the Huskers are now 8-3 on the season and 2-0 in conference play. The team’s next match will be a home match against Michigan on Friday, Oct. 1. The match will begin at 6 p.m. and can be viewed on Big Ten Network.