After a 3-2 setback to Utah, then a 3-1 defeat to Stanford, No. 6 Nebraska volleyball concluded the non-conference portion of its schedule with a battle against No. 5 Louisville.
Unfortunately, the Huskers’ slump continued as the Cardinals swept Nebraska at the Bob Devaney Center.
“We did nothing to compete tonight,” Nebraska volleyball head coach John Cook said postgame. “Why, I don’t know. But it’s back to the drawing board for the Big Ten.”
As a team, Nebraska finished the night with 31 kills, seven blocks and a hitting percentage of .046. Leading the way for the Huskers was freshman outside hitter Whitney Lauenstein who had nine kills in the match. Alongside Lauenstein, freshman outside hitter Ally Batenhorst had five kills. Senior outside hitter Lexi Sun was third, concluding the night with four kills.
Freshman outside hitter Lindsey Krause finished the match with three kills alongside junior outside hitter Madi Kubik.
The match against Louisville, regardless of national ranking, was going to be a stellar match. Leading the Cardinals as head coach is former assistant coach and Nebraska alumni Dani Busboom Kelly, who returned to her alma mater for an epic reunion.
“Coming back here was pretty special,” Kelly said postgame. “I love this place and I have a lot of amazing memories here. But it was awesome to bring a team here that was so confident in themselves to challenge Nebraska.”
The opening set started off as a ferocious battle with the score continuously tying or Louisville taking the lead. The Cardinals seemed to drift away with the lead as they took an 8-4 advantage, but Nebraska wouldn’t back down. However, after making the score 10-9, Louisville quickly fired out three points to take a 13-9 lead.
Following a Husker timeout, Nebraska continued sniffing out the Cardinals’ spark in order to prevent them from catching fire. Although the Huskers were on their heels, Louisville held on to its lead. After much contention, the Cardinals once again made a run for it, jumping ahead 20-15.
Another timeout was called by Nebraska, but this time Louisville wouldn’t allow a comeback. The Cardinals continued their run and knocked in the set point to win 25-17.
Louisville seemed to begin igniting the fire as the second set commenced. But once again, the Huskers wouldn’t allow a rally to ignite. However, the Cardinals refused to surrender their lead, jumping ahead 6-3. Then sophomore middle blocker Kalynn Meyer fired down a kill, which began a momentum swing towards the Huskers.
Soon enough, Nebraska and Louisville were deadlocked in ties from nine to 13.. After the 13-13 tie, Louisville regained the lead and went up 15-13 before a media timeout. However, the Huskers continued to build their positive momentum following an extended rally which ended with a Meyer kill to tie it up. But the Cardinals wouldn’t back down, taking another lead at 19-17.
Following a timeout by Nebraska, the Cardinals looked to grab a stranglehold in the match. With the lead ballooning to 21-17 things seemed to be déjà vu for the Cardinals who were hoping to take the second set. This premonition would come true as Louisville would take set two, 25-20.
“What’s disappointing about this loss is that we’re not playing to the capability that we could have,” junior defensive specialist Kenzie Knuckles said postgame. “Louisville is a great team, but these past three games we haven’t played to the capability I know we can play to. We’re not playing Nebraska volleyball.”
Down 2-0, the Huskers needed to lead a monumental comeback. Opening up the third set with ties at one, two and three, Nebraska was hungry for the opportunity to once again stake its claim in the match. But the Cardinals continued to hold the lead, forcing the Huskers to continue playing from behind.
Despite a tie at eight, Louisville immediately jumped ahead once again. But Nebraska would once again put up a fight, tying things at 10. Lauenstein then gave the Huskers an 11-10 lead, before the Cardinals tied it right back up. Louisville then took a two-point advantage, which it maintained through the media timeout.
Coming out of the break, Nebraska tied up the score at 15 before the Cardinals broke it. Following some brief back-and-forth action, Louisville busted the lead open and inched further towards a sweep, holding a 22-17 advantage and forcing another Nebraska timeout.
The sweep was in Louisville’s sight as the lead grew to 23-17, then 24-18. The match then came to an end as the Cardinals landed the final point to secure a 25-18 set win and the match.
“Tonight was a step back,” Cook said. “Like a heavyweight fight we got punched and we didn’t respond. We came out very tentative, and it surprised me. It’s stuff a coach can’t really fix.”
Nebraska’s Big Ten run begins on Wednesday, Sept. 22 at Northwestern. The match is set to begin at 8 p.m. and can be seen on the Big Ten Network.