The Nebraska volleyball team swept Rutgers (25-18, 25-21, 25-19) in Piscataway, New Jersey, Friday to improve to 5-0 on the season. The Scarlet Knights fall to 1-6.
Senior outside hitter Lexi Sun led the Husker offense with 17 kills on .484 hitting. Both Nebraska middle blockers were efficient, with senior Lauren Stivrins and junior Kayla Caffey hitting .556 and .545, respectively. Stivrins was second on the team with 11 kills.
Nebraska struggled on the right side, however. Sophomore right-side hitter Riley Zuhn had four kills and four errors on 12 attempts. Senior right-side hitter Jazz Sweet subbed in briefly during the third set and was blocked on her only attempt of the match.
Sophomore outside hitter Madi Kubik led the team in digs with 11. Junior setter Nicklin Hames had 10 digs, along with 37 assists.
Hames was given the difficult task of setting an offense while given poor passes for much of the match. Redshirt freshman defensive specialist Emma Gabel saw her first action of the season during the second set amid serve receive struggles for the Huskers. Gabel was later subbed in for Sun in the backcourt during the third set. Despite only being aced twice, Nebraska’s passing struggles led to several out-of-system errors.
Rutgers led by as many as seven midway through the second set and were poised to win its first set against Nebraska in program history. The Scarlet Knights faced passing struggles of their own, however, and allowed the Huskers to mount a comeback and steal the set.
Senior outside hitter Kamila Cieslik, a former club teammate of Hames, led Rutgers with 10 kills. Senior right-side hitter Beka Kojadinovic had 9 kills on an efficient .400 hitting percentage. The only Scarlet Knight with double-digit digs was junior outside hitter Anastasiia Maksimova.
Sun tallied the opening kill of the match. Rutgers rallied back with some tough serves by Balyko to take a 5-3 lead. The Huskers responded with a 4-0 run with sophomore libero Kenzie Knuckles behind the line. An ace from true freshman defensive specialist Keonilei Akana prompted the first timeout from the Scarlet Knights with Nebraska up 9-6.
The Huskers maintained their three-point lead midway through the first. With Sun serving, Nebraska expanded their lead to 15-10, and another Husker scoring run led to the second timeout of the set for Rutgers at 19-12. With the momentum firmly on the Nebraska side, the Huskers finished off a 25-18 victory in set one.
The Scarlet Knights had another solid start to the second set and held an early lead. Nebraska used their first challenge of the match down 10-4, but it was not successful. After an ace from Rutgers, Gabel was subbed in at 11-4.
Nebraska slowly began to chip into the Rutgers lead, narrowing the score to 12-10. The Scarlet Knights immediately responded with a 3-0 run, and Cook took Nebraska’s first timeout. More strong serves from Sun eventually tied the set at 16 before a double block from Kubik and Caffey finally gave Nebraska the lead.
With the crucial second set winding down, both teams traded points and were tied several times. Nebraska earned its first two-point lead of the set at 22-20 as Rutgers took their second timeout. The Huskers capitalized on the slim lead, pulling away for a 25-21 victory.
The Huskers began set three in a different rotation with Sun starting in left front. Nebraska capitalized on the move, jumping out to a 6-3 lead and forcing a Rutgers timeout. The Scarlet Knights pulled within three, and Gabel subbed into the back row for Sun after an ace. Nebraska quickly got back into a rhythm and went up by six, but Rutgers put together another 3-0 run.
Suddenly, Rutgers was within one at 17-16. Sweet checked into the match for the first time and was blocked on her lone attempt. Errors from the Scarlet Knights derailed the comeback, though, and Nebraska finished the sweep with a 25-19 win.
Nebraska and Rutgers will meet again Saturday at 3:00 p.m. in College Avenue Gym. The match will be livestreamed on BTN+.