Going into Saturday’s match against Iowa State, the Nebraska volleyball team held a 79-1 record advantage in its previous matchups against the Cyclones. They also had never lost a game in Ames, Iowa.
That made the result of the game a surprise for Husker and Cyclone fans alike.
After beginning the season 8-0, the No. 1 Huskers were handed their first loss by No. 25 ISU (23-25, 22-25, 25-20, 21-25) Saturday in four sets. The win marked the Cyclones (6-4) first victory against NU (8-1) at the Hilton Coliseum and their second win all-time against Nebraska.
NU coach John Cook said there wasn’t just one factor that caused the loss on the road.
“We just didn’t play well,” Cook said.
In order to beat the No. 1 team in the AVCA Coaches Poll, the Cyclones had to play with more poise than they had all season. And they did.
The Huskers began the match with a service ace by senior Lauren Cook, which led to an 18-14 advantage in set one. However, NU’s largest lead all night would not hold up against a hungry ISU lineup. The two teams would go on to tie six more times before the home team snagged the first set, 25-23.
The back and forth match would only continue in the preceding sets.
After beginning set two with a deficit, NU came back to tie it at 11-11 after a kill by Hannah Werth. The senior then assisted her team with another kill to give them their second lead in the set. Back-to-back kills by Gina Mancuso would then give them a 19-18 lead. However, just like in the first set, ISU did not back down. Despite cutting the lead as close to 23-22, the Huskers were blanked the rest of the way and lost their second straight set, 25-22.
The Huskers hit .158 in the first set and .163 in the second.
But it’s not like the Huskers couldn’t have captured its first two sets, according to Cook.
The NU players let every bit momentum they had slip through their hands.
“Every time we got two points, we missed a serve,” Cook said. “We just didn’t put any pressure on them. We kept letting them off.”
After two sets Nebraska had three service aces, but committed 11 errors.
However, the team turned things around in the third set.
Junior Morgan Broekhuis nailed a kill to put the Huskers up 4-3 against the Cyclones. After two kills by junior Hayley Thramer to put NU up 16-12, Mancuso added another kill to take a 19-13 advantage. Nebraska never looked back and came out of the third set victorious against ISU, 25-20.
But that’s as far as the winning would go for NU that match.
ISU put any hopes of a possible five set match to rest by beginning the fourth set 5-0. The Huskers could not get anything going offensively as Iowa State’s lead grew to a 11-4 after 15 swings. The Huskers then came back to trail, 23-21, and looked to the momentum it was once looking for.
But it wasn’t enough.
“We were outworked,” Werth said. “They did a great job and fought every single point.”
ISU’s Tenisha Matlock sealed the victory with the last kill and sent Nebraska away with its first loss of the season.
Mancuso finished the match as the Huskers leading attacker with 18 kills, while Werth finished with 16. Nebraska was held to a .211 hitting percentage, its lowest all season.
ISU hit .182, but what made them have the upper hand on its counterparts were its total digs.
Iowa State out-dug Nebraska, 84-78, and also had four different hitters with double-digit kills.
So what does this match do for the Huskers?
Werth said NU’s first loss provided more positives than negatives.
“We’re glad it happened at the beginning of the season than the end,” she said. “We’re going to be watching a lot of film and understand the concepts it takes to get better. We can sit back and be victims or go out and make a change.”
The team chooses the latter, Werth said.
“This team will do what is needed to succeed,” she said. “We will have the confidence to make sure to not let this defeat beat us down.”