Four months after its runner-up finish at the NCAA Championships and one month after the conclusion of the 2022 beach volleyball season, Nebraska volleyball returned to the court for its lone spring season exhibition match against Kansas.
With a full house at the Heartland Events Center in Grand Island, Nebraska, it was safe to say Husker fans were elated to have volleyball back, even if it was just an exhibition.
But Nebraska didn’t disappoint its fans on the night, as it brought home the win over the Jayhawks 3-1.
While the win was great for the fans, Nebraska volleyball head coach John Cook knew things wouldn’t be flawless on the night against Kansas.
“Kansas is a really solid team,” Cook said post match. “They’re really well coached and I can tell they’ve been playing a lot more indoor volleyball this year than we have. We did have some great plays and some bonehead plays.”
Since it was the first match for the team since December, Cook expected mistakes. For the team, this acted more as an analysis on where it was at.
“I expected that,” Cook said. “But it’s a great learning match for our team on how to handle nerves. They were super amped up for today and they were a bit unfocused. But, they also had fun with this crowd and it was really cool.”
The opening set began as a back-and-forth bout with multiple ties and lead changes. However, Kansas took a crack at running off with the lead after making the score 11-7, then 12-8. But the Huskers didn’t let the Jayhawks get too far as they tied things up at 13. Kansas would once again jump out with the lead, going up 16-13, yet Nebraska would just tie it up three points later.
The madness continued for both teams as it deadlocked seven more times in the set. After a massive three-hit save from senior setter Nicklin Hames, junior defensive specialist Kenzie Knuckles and freshman libero Lexi Rodriguez, junior outside hitter Madi Kubik put the exclamation point on the rally with a block to give the Huskers the 24-23 lead. But, the Jayhawks stayed alive with a block of their own on set point, tying the score at 24.
Freshman outside hitter Whitney Lauenstein wasted no time after Kansas’s tie to set Nebraska up with another setpoint, which Kubik took, giving the Huskers the 26-24 set win.
The Jayhawks erupted at the start of the second set, jumping out to a whopping 12-4 lead and nearly leaving Nebraska in the dust. Following a timeout, the Huskers stormed back with a 6-1 run to cut Kansas’s lead to 13-10.
While the Jayhawks continued to hold onto the lead, Nebraska’s run kept the score close for a time. Kansas once again tried pulling away, building the score to 22-15, then 23-16. The Jayhawks then reached setpoint and put set two away, 25-18.
The match returned to the back-and-forth battle in set three with the two teams tying numerously early on. The Huskers tried to build a lead over Kansas, but the Jayhawks stayed within reach as the score reached the mid-teens. This didn’t stop Nebraska, however, as it ran away the lead and the set, winning 25-16.
Kansas made an attempt to keep a lead in set four, but only met constant ties with the Huskers. Then, when the score was tied at eight, Nebraska jumped ahead from the Jayhawks and also tried to run away with the lead which at first came to no avail. But, much like set three, the Huskers finally broke out of Kansas’s grip and secured the match with a 25-17 set four win.