The Huskers, fresh off a rivalry win, had two ways to respond after an impressive victory: Let their guard down or continue to win. Nebraska responded with a dominant win, sweeping the UCLA Bruins.
Nebraska dominated UCLA in all three sets. The Huskers won the sets with scores of 25-12, 25-16 and 25-19. No. 2 Nebraska improves to 2-0 while UCLA drops to 0-2. The dominance came behind a much improved offensive performance on Saturday night.
The Huskers had a .320 hitting percentage, a mighty improvement from Friday’s night showing of .176 against Creighton. The Huskers achieved a much better offense through running plays that got more players involved on offense.
“We had a lot less communication errors going into the second game rather than the first and I think we had those first game jitters,” freshman libero Kenzie Knuckles said. “We were a little bit nervous going into the last game so we usually don’t have those communication errors.”
Nine players of the ten players that played against UCLA scored a point for Nebraska with junior Lexi Sun and sophomore Capri Davis leading the way. The two were the kills leaders and led the Husker offense for the second and third set.
Sun led both teams in points and had 12 kills on a .321 hitting percentage. The performance was much improved from the Creighton match and her best performance was saved for the third and final set.
In the third set, Sun had six kills, one serving ace and a block assist to net her 7.5 points on a .357 attack percentage. Her third set performance was topped off with a match ending kill right after the Bruins began to mount a comeback. The great third set performance also showed the overall great team performance on offense.
Up 20-16 in the third set, the Huskers kept going back and forth with UCLA when the Bruins seemed to get a nice shot. Junior middle blocker Lauren Stivrins dove almost right under the net and passed the ball to a waiting sophomore Nicklin Hames for her only kill of the game. The roles are usually reversed, but the offense showed its ability to adapt on the fly.
“I was really pleased with how they rebounded tonight,” head coach John Cook said. “Last night didn’t feel good even though we won.”
The Husker play also spread to the bench where junior outside hitter Capri Davis shined again. Davis had the final two kills of the first set and then had five kills with no attack errors in the second set. The great second set performance netted Davis 5.5 points and a .455 hitting percentage.
Davis was not the only bench player to have an impact on the match. Sophomore Megan Miller was another piece that shined in the second set. Miller had three serving aces and the serving errors for Nebraska were limited to five. The errors that piled up against Creighton were cleaned up and also let the Husker defense lock down the Bruins.
The Nebraska defense continued its dominance by limiting UCLA to a .114 hitting percentage and 28 kills on 105 attack attempts. To compare, Nebraska had 44 kills on 103 attack attempts. The Huskers controlled the front by not allowing the Bruins to have any easy kills.
Junior outside hitter Mac May did have 12 kills but had an inefficient .226 hitting percentage. The Bruins offense did improve from their match against Baylor but other players on UCLA once again could not step up. The other four Bruins combined for 16 kills but that did not include senior Savvy Simo. Simo had nine kills against Baylor but had zero on Saturday.
The much improved performance from Nebraska on Saturday saw them go undefeated in the opening weekend for the first time since 2016. A strong showing is important but does not determine how well a season goes. As Cook stated, two years ago Nebraska went 0-2 and went on to win the national championship that year.
Next week, the Huskers travel to the San Diego Invitational. On Sept. 6, Nebraska plays No. 24 and then plays No. 21 San Diego on Sept. 7.