Nebraska volleyball found itself in a gritty, back-and-forth matchup with Northwestern on Sunday. The Huskers ultimately pulled off a five-set victory, their second of the year, but needed multiple comeback efforts to do so.
In the first set, the Huskers jumped out to a 5-3 lead aided by a block and a kill from senior middle blocker Kaitlyn Hord. The Wildcats came out firing, putting together a 6-0 run to take a 10-6 lead. Nebraska then responded with a 4-0 run of its own off two kills by sophomore outside hitter Ally Batenhorst to trim the Northwestern lead to 14-12.
Both sides put together 4-0 runs to tie the score at 22 and it was back-and-forth the rest of the way. The set went into extra points as both teams refused to relent. Nebraska had a chance to finish it off with three set points but couldn’t pull through. Northwestern finished off the set with three straight kills to take a 29-27 win.
The Huskers came to life in set two. Two kills and an ace by freshman middle blocker Bekka Allick helped them jump out to a 10-6 lead. Nebraska continued to roll with a 3-0 run to extend its lead to 16-8. The Wildcats responded with a 3-0 run of their own to trim the lead to 17-12 and force the Huskers to call a timeout.
Sophomore outside hitter Whitney Lauenstein stepped up huge late, recording her seventh kill and a block to hand Nebraska a 24-18 lead. A Wildcat attack error gave the Huskers the 25-20 win and tied the match at 1-1.
Northwestern came out strong in set three, jumping ahead 6-2. The Huskers tallied a 3-0 run to cut the Wildcat lead to 12-10 later in the set. Lauenstein capped off another run, 4-0 this time, with her 10th kill of the day to tie the game at 15. Northwestern put together three-straight points to gain a 19-16 advantage. It was back-and-forth late in set three. The Huskers kept it close late, fighting off three set points, but the Wildcats pulled through in the end, winning 25-23 to go ahead 2-1 in the match.
Nebraska bounced back in set four as it jumped ahead 5-1 to force an early Northwestern timeout. The Wildcats used the timeout to their advantage and came out dominant with an 8-1 run aided by four kills and two aces, to go up 10-7. The Huskers responded with three consecutive points as they recorded two kills and a block to take the lead back, 13-11.
The two sides continued to trade sideouts after that. Tied at 18-18, the Wildcats sparked a 3-0 run to give themselves a 21-19 edge and force the Huskers to call a timeout. Lauenstein stepped up when she was needed most, helping Nebraska to a 4-0 finish and capping the set with her 16th kill of the game to take the 25-23 win and force a winner-take-all fifth set.
It was all Nebraska to start set five. They came out dominant defensively, recording three blocks to take a 4-1 lead. The Huskers continued to roll as a 7-2 advantage forced Northwestern to call burn both of its timeouts.
The game then came to a sudden halt. A Wildcat player was taken off on a stretcher after diving into the stands to try and make a play. After a lengthy delay, the game continued and the favorites took control after that. Nebraska ended the game on a 5-0 scoring run, finishing with a block from Batenhorst and Hord to take the fifth set, 15-6.
Lauenstein led the way for the Huskers offensively with 16 kills. Not far behind was Kubik who added 15 kills, and Krause chipped in 14. Senior Nicklin Hames led defensively for Nebraska, totaling 19 digs. Hames also led in the assists column with 31.
The Huskers improved to 21-2 overall and 13-1 in the Big Ten. Their next game will be at home against Iowa. First serve is set for 6:00 pm and it will be televised on Nebraska Public Media.