NCAA Volleyball Playoffs Photo No. 8

Nebraska’s Madi Kubik (10) celebrates with her team after a Huskers’ point during the match against Ball State at the Bob Devaney Sports Center on Friday, Dec. 6, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

In a normal year, November marks the conclusion of the volleyball regular season. On Thursday, fans got a first look at this year’s team in a live-streamed intrasquad scrimmage from the Bob Devaney Sports Center.

The Red team, mostly made up of Nebraska’s starters, defeated the White team 3-0 (25-19, 25-14, 25-22). Sophomore outside hitter Madi Kubik led the Red team with 13 kills, while true freshman middle blocker Kalynn Meyer had 6 kills on .600 hitting.

Head coach John Cook said that a lack of consistency in the match was not surprising.

“There were some nerves out there,” he said. “Our team hasn’t played in nine months.”

Cook praised the blocking and defense in the match, although transfer junior middle blocker Kayla Caffey “lit up” opposing middles, according to the head coach.

The scrimmage gave an opportunity for new additions to get their first experience in a live match. An open competition at defensive specialist may give a starting spot to a player with no starting experience, like true freshman Keonilei Akana or redshirt freshman Emma Gabel.

Cook said he likes the progress he has seen from the group.

“We threw Keonilei out on the Red team tonight to see how she would handle that,” Cook said. “She served really tough tonight. That just shows you how confident and comfortable she is over there.”

Cook identified Gabel and freshman setter Anni Evans as the team’s “two most improved players.” He also said that senior defensive specialist Hayley Densberger is “playing the best volleyball of her career.”

Riley Zuhn also had a chance to impress. The sophomore outside hitter started for the Red team in place of senior Lexi Sun, who was unavailable due to a pending COVID-19 test result.

Kubik spoke highly of Zuhn after the match.

“I think she’s great. She’s the kind of person you enjoy playing next to because she’s such a positive vibe and a great teammate,” Kubik said. “They moved her around a lot...in her first year here, playing middle, right side, outside. I think she’s someone who rolls with the punches and adjusts to whatever is thrown at her.”

Zuhn picked up the opening kill of the match for the Red team. True freshman middle blocker Kalynn Meyer added a pair of kills to give Red an early advantage. White called their first timeout at 10-4 following another kill on the right from Zuhn. Teams traded scoring runs, with middle blockers Callie Schwarzenbach and Caffey leading the offense for the White team. The score tightened late, but the Red won 25-19 after a set-clinching kill from Kubik.

The second set began with an early White lead after a strong serving run from Caffey. Red rallied back and took the lead, with senior right-side hitter Jazz Sweet getting an ace in her rare serving role. Red continued to pull away after taking the lead. Akana added an ace of her own to force a White timeout at 17-11. Senior middle blocker Lauren Stivrins ended the set on the slide, as Red won 25-14.

Red had an early lead in the third set with Akana serving. Middles continued to dominate the match as both Stivrins and Caffey had plenty of swings. Evans led a White comeback from the service line, with Red taking a timeout down 13-10. The match was tied at 15 after a long rally featuring digs from Densberger and Gabel for the White team. Each side traded points and timeouts before Kubik scored on match point to win 25-22 and finish the sweep for the Red team.

The spring volleyball schedule is not yet finalized. The Huskers will begin regular season play as soon as Jan. 22 when the NCAA-approved spring season begins. 

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