If you happened to be one of the 4,168 fans in attendance Friday at the NU Coliseum, you might have witnessed something from the Nebraska volleyball team that hasn’t happened in a long time.
For the first time this season, the No. 4 Huskers (18-3 overall, 10-2 Big Ten) were defeated 3-1 (22-25, 24-26, 25-19, 23-25) at home by No. 20 Ohio State (17-7, 8-4).
The loss to the Buckeyes snapped a 39-game winning streak at home. The last regular-season loss at the Coliseum came against Iowa State Oct. 21, 2009.
However, Nebraska made sure it’d be the only loss they’d receive this weekend.
After losing at home for the first time since Oct. 21, 2009, the Huskers regrouped Sunday to face the best team in the nation.
The team knew its matchup against No. 1 Penn State (21-2, 11-1) wouldn’t be any easier and according to NU head coach John Cook, it showed right away.
“In game one, we were probably worse than we were (against OSU Friday),” he said. “We were in a funk Friday and came out in a funk tonight.”
The Husker’s start didn’t look promising as they were handed its worse set loss of the year, 25-12.
The Husker offense hit a dismal -.103 as a team, including 10 errors and only six kills in the set.
However, the players made sure not to disappoint their coach the next set.
Despite jumping off to its first major lead in the second set, 6-4, the Nittany Lions prevailed and would go on a 11-4 run to take the lead 17-10. A hit struck by PSU’s Nia Grant that hit Lauren Cook in the face would give Penn State its largest lead of the match.
However, it was that blow to NU’s setter that would give the Huskers the momentum they would need the rest of way.
Nebraska would then go on a 10-2 run and tie the game up at 20 a piece to get the home team back in the game.
Cook said it was Grant’s hit to his daughter that gave NU the drive it needed to go on and win the rest of the set.
“When you get hit in the face like that you can either cry or you act like it didn’t bother you,” he said. “When that happened and we won that rally, I can feel the momentum shift.”
After 22 lead changes, the Huskers would go on to win the second set 32-30 and tie the match up at one apiece.
Though the team would go on to lose the third set, 25-19, the Huskers’ remarkable comeback would soon begin in the last two.
Like the previous set, NU’s fourth set began with them trailing its opponent, 8-5, forcing to Cook to call a timeout. PSU then pulled away with its lead, 13-8, forcing the Nebraska head coach to call his second and final timeout of the set.
The timeout seemed to prove worthy as Nebraska made sure not to leave its fans in despair for the second set in a row.
With clutch kills by senior Gina Mancuso and junior Morgan Broekhuis, the Huskers got within reach and tied the game at 15. A kill and block by freshman Meghan Haggerty then assisted the squad to a 17-15 lead and the Huskers would not look back.
NU went on to win the set, 25-23, and send the match to five games.
After the fourth set victory, it was clear that the momentum was shifted towards Nebraska’s side of the net, according to Mancuso.
The senior said the crowd helped push the team to the historic comeback.
“They bring us back into games so much,” she said. “I know we’re the ones out on the court playing but the crowd gives us so much energy and we feed off them.”
Behind kills by Broekhuis and Hannah Werth and a service ace by Lara Dykstra, NU found itself to 3-0 advantage against the Nittany Lions. It would be a lead the team would never give up.
After another kill and a block by Werth made it 7-6, PSU used its timeout to regroup and halt the Husker momentum. However, nothing the away team tried to do seemed to work.
Led by three kills from Werth and Mancuso, Nebraska sealed the deal against its conference opponent, winning the set, 15-10, and winning the match 3-2.
Senior Mancuso led the team with 13 kills, while Broekhuis and Haggerty tallied 11 kills each. Haggerty finished the with a team-high .381 hitting percentage, while Werth led the team with 23 digs.
After beginning the weekend with a loss to OSU Friday, Cook said he was more than thrilled with his team’s outcome Sunday against No. 1 Penn State.
“They found a way and played for each other,” he said. “I am just so happy for our team. Those kids stepped up and made some big plays. It was a fun match to watch.”