No. 5 Nebraska volleyball took on No. 9 Penn State in State College, Pennsylvania in the first of four straight road matches for the Huskers. Penn State handed Nebraska its third loss of the season and second in conference play on Saturday, Oct. 13.
The set started evenly, with Nebraska and Penn State starting at 5-5. Nebraska began to break away from Penn State with a 5-3 run to take a quick 10-8 lead. The Huskers continued to push forward, earning another three points before Penn State caught up and closed the gap and evened the score 12-12.
Both teams kept the game even after tying midway through the first set. Outside hitter Mikaela Foecke earned a kill to bring the score to 22-21, with the Huskers leading, but Penn State answered with two back-to-back kills to lead the game 24-22 before forcing a Nebraska timeout. The Huskers were not able to rally after the break and an attack error by middle blocker Lauren Stivrins gave Penn State the first set, 25-22.
The second set was a comeback for the Huskers. Nebraska took an early lead and created a gap between them and the Nittany Lions by leading 9-5. Nebraska allowed a few more points but that didn’t stop the Huskers from extending their lead to 12-7.
Nebraska pushed even harder and went on an 9-2 run to secure the lead, bringing the score to 21-9. Penn State fought back and earned two more points by Taylor Leath and Tori Gorrell, but Nebraska actively worked toward the 25th point and earned the last four it needed to take the second set 25-11.
Neither team wanted to give up the third set. The biggest lead was three points when Penn State led 9-6 about midway through the set. Penn State’s Nia Reed and Serena Gray pushed to take the lead late in the set but Nebraska still held on.
Penn State and Nebraska were tied 23-23, when Foecke made an attack error to give the Nittany Lions a 24-23 lead. Nebraska answered back with a kill from outside hitter Lexi Sun and a service ace by setter Nicklin Hames to earn two points and a 25-24 lead. Sun secured the last point by tipping the ball over the net, winning 26-24.
Penn State came out strong in the fourth set. After allowing Nebraska the first two points, Penn State went on a 9-2 run to take an early 9-4 lead. Nebraska began to close the gap and evened the score at 13-13 after a block by middle blocker Callie Schwarzenbach.
The closing of the fourth set was tight. A block by Penn State evened the score to 20-20 before Sun sent a kill to the Penn State floor to lead again 21-20, with Nebraska inching its way toward the end of the set. Nebraska tried to continue the lead but Penn State surpassed them and sent the game into the fifth set, winning the fourth 25-23.
Penn State took the first two points of the set and the kept the momentum going with a 3-2 run which helped the Nittany Lions continuing to distance themselves from Nebraska. Penn State earned a five-point lead, 12-7, to force a Nebraska timeout. Nebraska earned two more points to close the gap, but Penn State finished strong and took the fifth set, 15-9.
Sun led the team with 20 kills, tying with Penn State’s Nia Reed. Foecke dominated the game with 17 kills, hitting .226 and totaling 18 digs. While Penn State did take the win, Nebraska held them to hitting .172 on the night. Nebraska led the game with 62 kills, 59 assists and 13 blocks.
Nebraska’s loss to Penn State is the first since 2014.
Nebraska heads to Madison, Wisconsin to take on the Wisconsin Badgers Friday, Oct. 19. The game will air on BTN Plus at 7 p.m.