Nebraska’s season came to an end Thursday afternoon in the 2022 NCAA Regional semifinal. It was a gritty, back-and-forth matchup between the Huskers and Oregon. The Ducks ultimately pulled through in the end, coming back from down 2-1 to take the five-set victory.
“It was a great match and sometimes that’s how those things go in duce games,” head coach John Cook said postgame. “They made some great plays, and I told the team I don’t really feel like we lost that match…I don’t think there is anybody in Nebraska that’s not proud of them.”
It was a tightly contested set early, as both sides continued to trade side-outs. Nebraska jumped out in front first as sophomore outside hitter Lindsay Krause pounded back-to-back kills to give the Huskers an 11-7 advantage. The Nebraska lead continued to grow, as a 4-0 scoring run put them ahead 15-9 heading into the first media timeout.
The Huskers continued to roll, going on a 3-0 run, aided by junior setter Anni Evans’ first ace of the season, and a kill from sophomore outside hitter Whitney Lauenstein forced Oregon to take its first timeout of the game. Senior setter Nicklin Hames ended the set on a 3-0 run behind the service line, including an ace, and the Huskers took set one 25-14.
The Ducks bounced back in set two, going on a 3-0 run to go ahead 7-4. Nebraska then took a short lead as two consecutive Oregon attack errors granted the Huskers a 12-11 advantage. Oregon did not let that faze them, as they continued to bring the heat throughout the set. The Ducks ripped their third block of the game to take an 18-14 lead and force Nebraska to call a timeout.
The Huskers refused to relent, going on an outstanding 6-0 scoring run late to jump ahead 22-20. Oregon ultimately pulled through, ending the set on a 6-2 scoring run to take the 26-24 win and tie the game at 1-1.
Set three started similarly to the second with Oregon the first to strike, jumping ahead 7-4. Nebraska fired back with a 4-1 run to tie the score at 13. The Ducks responded with two consecutive points to take a 15-13 lead heading into the media timeout. The Huskers fought back and took an 18-17 lead on Lauenstein’s seventh kill of the day.
Nebraska continued to lead after a block by sophomore outside hitter Ally Batenhorst and freshman middle blocker Bekka Allick gave it a 22-20 advantage. Oregon’s errors late in the set cost them. Two mistakes on the final three rallies gave Nebraska the 25-22 win.
It was a contentious start to set four with neither team managing to string together more than two consecutive points. Nebraska ultimately took a small advantage thanks to back-to-back aces by Batenhorst for a 15-13 lead on a 3-0 scoring run. The Huskers extended their lead to 19-16 on a block by Krause and Hord, forcing the Ducks to call a timeout.
The timeout served Oregon well as it pieced together a 5-0 run to go ahead 22-20. The Ducks had set point at 24-22, but Lauenstein pounded two consecutive kills to tie the score at 24 and force the set into extra points. A set that included 19 ties and 10 lead changes, it was an ultimate battle by both teams.
“There was just so much grit, and we were so determined to get every point,” Batenhost said postgame.
Unfortunately for Nebraska, it ran out of substitutions late and was forced to place freshman defensive specialist Maisie Bosieger in the front row. Oregon won the final two points to take the thrilling 32-30 win and force a winner-take-all set five.
All the momentum from the end of set four carried over into the fifth for Oregon. The Ducks took an 8-4 lead as the teams changed sides midway through the set. It was all Oregon as it continued to steamroll, jumping ahead 13-5 in the final set.
“I think towards the end of the match we were talking about how we would have to give everything that we have, nothing left in our tank,” Krause said. “We knew going into this match we’re not just going to get by.
Despite the large deficit, Nebraska refused to give in. The Huskers rallied together with a 6-0 scoring run to cut the Ducks’ lead to 14-11. In the end, though, Oregon finished the game off, winning with a final score of 15-11 in the fifth.
Krause led the way for Nebraska offensively, as she finished with 16 kills. Batenhorst was right behind, chipping in 15. Sophomore libero Lexi Rodriguez led defensively with 18 digs on the day. Senior outside hitter Madi Kubik added 17 digs and nine kills in the game.
The loss marked the end of four Nebraska players’ careers. Seniors Madi Kubik, Nicklin Hames, Kaitlyn Hord, and Kenzie Knuckles all played in their final game collegiately.
“You just have to take a step back and appreciate,” Krause said of the seniors postgame. “Nicklin (Hames) had been a five-year starter, and she's left quite the mark on this program. Madi and Kenzie have been the best ever and (Hord) even though she’s only been here for one year, I think she's been such a great addition to this team.”
The Huskers finished the year with a final record of 26-6.