Nebraska had some late set struggles Saturday evening, but they pulled through when they needed to, securing a close sweep with scores of 26-24, 25-19, and 25-22 to start out the season 3-0. It was a tougher task for the Huskers than the two previous victories, but senior outside hitter Madi Kubik and the team took that as a challenge and ran with it.
“Matches like these help us to grow our resilient muscle,” Kubik said postgame. ”We played in some tight sets.”
Kubik added that it was really good for them to have a match like this to prepare them for Big Ten play.
The game was a reunion for the Hames family as senior defensive specialist Nicklin played against her sister Kayleigh, a senior Libero/ Defensive Specialist, who suited up for Pepperdine.
“It was really cool to see her here,” Nicklin Hames said postgame. “For everyone to cheer for her like they did. It still brings tears to my eyes thinking about it.”
After not playing together since the state championship in Nicklin’s senior year of high school, it was a surreal moment for the two sisters.
“We have grown up playing together,” Nicklin Hames said. “For us to be able to have this moment we can always look back on it and it was a really cool experience for my family as well.”
Nicklin’s sister Kayleigh was given quite the cheers and applause as she was announced before the match tonight. The Hames family was in attendance tonight and definitely felt the appreciation from Husker nation.“Our fans are the best,” Cook quoted.
“It’s pretty special and something she will remember” Cook noted that Kayleigh was singing along to Nebraska’s pump-up song, “Red Kingdom”. “She’s bleeding a little Husker.”
In the match, Kubik led the Huskers in the kill category with 11. While sophomore outside hitter Lindsay Krause chipped in nine. Sophomore outside hitter Whitney Lauenstein was right behind, adding eight kills. Defensively for the Huskers, it was Nicklin Hames leading in digs with 12 while Rodriguez had 11. Senior middle blocker Kaitlyn Hord had a great night for Nebraska as she led the team in blocks with six. Sophomore setter Kennedi Orr, who got her second start of the tournament, dished out 27 assists, and also contributed with five blocks and six digs.
Four members of the Huskers were named to the ll-tournament team— Lauenstein, Kubik and sophomore libero Lexi Rodrguez— while Hord was named the MVP of the Ameritas Players Challenge.
Nebraska started strong in the first set going up 5-0 with Kubik contributing to three of those points with two kills and a block. Freshman middle blocker Becka Allick got in on the action recording two kills to give Nebraska a 9-5 lead.
Pepperdine responded with a 3-0 run of their own, adding a block and ace serve. Krause then turned it on with back-to-back kills to give Nebraska a 3-0 run and a 15-10 lead. An Orr service error, followed by a block by freshman middle blocker Vanessa Polk cut the lead to 15-12.
Kubik responded for the Huskers hammering home her fourth kill of the match to give NU the 19-16 lead. Pepperdine then caught fire as they had a 6-0 run to tie it at 20-20. After that, it got tight in set one as both teams traded side-outs back and forth.
When asked about handling the adversity tonight, Kubik noted that It just comes down to finding a way and trusting their training.
“We are not gonna play great volleyball every single night,” Kubik said. “So finding a way to win ugly is something we have got to get good at.”
Multiple crucial errors late caused the set to go into extra points, but Nebraska pulled through in the end. After back-to-back Pepperdine hitting errors, the Huskers took a 26-24 win in set one.
“We were trying to win two-point games and there was our first shot tonight,” Nebraska head coach John Cook said postgame. “And we found a way to do it.”
In set two, Nebraska started down 1-0 after Orr recorded her fourth service error of the night. It was back and forth early on in set 2. Allick and Lauenstein responded with a timely block to put Nebraska up 5-4. Pepperdine caught some life after Nebraska had two straight net violations to tie it as 6-6.
Hord slammed one of her two kills in the set to put Nebraska up 10-8. Nebraska then received another net violation but Allick responded with a kill to put Nebraska up 15-11.
The Huskers stepped it up late as they went on a 6-0 run to go up 19-11. Kubik registered her seventh kill of the night to extend the lead to 21-13. A late 3-0 run by Pepperdine caused NU to call a timeout at 24-19. Pepperdine then committed a hitting error on set point, giving Nebraska the 25-19 win.
Orr made her second start of the tournament. Coach Cook liked what he saw and said she was better tonight, but thinks there is always more room for improvement.
“Running the offense, consistency in her sets, and we have to continue to build on that, Cook said”
Nebraska struggled early in the third set as back-to-back violations set them behind 4-7. Allcik responded well as she added two straight blocks to cut the lead to 6-7. Another 3-0 run by Pepperdine was led by junior middle blocker Meg Brown. She fired the Waves' first ace of the night to give them the 8-12 lead, causing Nebraska to call a timeout.
Hord stepped up big for Nebraska with two blocks and a kill to cut the Pepperdine lead to 13-14. Pepperdine did not respond well as three straight hitting errors gave Nebraska a 16-14 lead.
Nebraska surged late in set three, adding a 9-2 run to go up 17-14. Kubik gave the Huskers an edge as she chipped in two kills to give Nebraska a 21-18 lead. Maisie Boesiger came in late behind the service line with a 4-0 run for Nebraska, but a service error ended the run at 24-20.
Two straight blocks from Pepperdine caused a Husker timeout at 24-22. After another block from Pepperdine, Nebraska pulled through with a block of their own from Hord and Orr to get the 25-22 win and the 3-0 sweep for the Huskers. “We got three wins and played some really good volleyball,” Cook said, adding that his team has to learn to work through some nerves and continue to build on that.
Cook had some high praise for senior libero Kenzie Knuckles after the match. He recalled her great mindset and energy throughout the night.
“I thought she would have been our MVP tonight,” Cook said. “Her passing, digging and serving I think was really the difference tonight.”
Plenty of excitement in the opening weekend for Nebraska Volleyball and plenty to look forward to for the rest of the season. The Huskers are back in action next weekend as they take on Loyola Marymount and Ole Miss in the Husker Invitational. The first service is set for Thursday at 6:00 pm at the Devaney Center.