The University of Nebraska–Lincoln had its fall break this past weekend, but 14 of its students were too busy doing something else: winning.
While most students escaped to spend time with friends and family, the Nebraska volleyball team remained on campus and defeated Wisconsin 3-0 and No. 10 Minnesota 3-1 to extend its winning streak to seven.
The No. 4 Huskers (15-2, 7-1 Big Ten) took on the Badgers (14-6, 2-5) this past Friday and needed only three sets (25-22, 25-15, 25-20) to earn its sixth conference win of the season.
The Huskers were led by double-digit hitters Morgan Broekhuis, Hayley Thramer and Hannah Werth the entire night. The three hitters combined for 34 of NU’s 48 total kills and assisted their team to a .396 hitting percentage.
Broekhuis finished the match with 12 kills and hit .370 on the night, while Thramer and Werth nailed 11 kills each. Thramer, who swung for .500, led the defense with six blocks, while Werth added a team-high eight digs.
Senior Gina Mancuso stole the show on offense, leading in both hitting percentage (.583; 8-for-12) and serve aces (3). The team recorded a season-high seven aces in the match.
Mancuso also compiled five digs and two blocks on defense, assisting the team to eight blocks and holding UW to a .182 hitting percentage.
NU coach John Cook said he was thrilled to see the team begin the weekend on a positive note.
“We did some really good things tonight,” he said. “I thought we played pretty consistent. We put up some really good numbers. Anytime you hit .396 against a Big Ten team that’s a heck of a night.”
His team’s momentum carried into Sunday’s match.
The Huskers picked up right where they left off Friday, trouncing the Gophers in four sets (18-25, 27-25, 25-23, 25-16).
Though the Huskers’ team offensive numbers disintegrated in serve aces (5) and hitting percentage (.326), many of its players’ figures improved.
Mancuso finished the match with a team-high 14 kills, including five kills in the second set and four in the fourth. The senior also recorded two service aces and nine digs on defense.
The team’s best performance arguably came in the third set.
NU’s Thramer and Lauren Cook both nabbed four kills in the set to help break the 1-1 tie and assist to a team hitting percentage .361. Lauren Cook also recorded 12 assists, finishing with a total of 44 and a career-high eight kills.
The setter’s exceptional performance was a surprise even to her, she said.
“I don’t know where that came from,” Lauren Cook said with a laugh. “(The Gophers) weren’t really respecting me, so I said ‘why not,’ and I just kept dumping it. It was working.”
The senior also played superbly on the other side of the net as well, tallying 11 digs, while Lara Dykstra compiled a team-high 13 kills.
The Huskers hope to carry on their impressive conference play Wednesday with their next conference opponent in Iowa.
Nebraska currently holds a 14-0 series advantage against the Hawkeyes, including sweeps in the two matches last season.
Although the team is undefeated in Iowa, its next outing will be anything but a simple match.
After playing two matches in three days, Cook understands that it won’t be that easy having his squad refreshed in time for Wednesday’s match.
“My job is to get them recovered so they can go in mentally prepared. It’s a challenge because you can’t spend a lot of time in the gym right now, so your preparation time has to be really short, efficient and simple.
“Our objective is to go in fresh and rested and wanting to play ... as opposed to struggling in there and tired.”