Nebraska takes control early, makes quick work of Indiana on the road
BLOOMINGTON, Indiana — Nebraska volleyball coach John Cook held no fond sentiment for the Huskers playing their final match at Indiana’s intimate University Gym. Mikaela Foecke and Lauren Stivrins ensured NU’s last trip there was brief.
The Hoosiers’ search for an elusive win over NU will continue to their new facility set to open in 2019 after No. 6 Nebraska made quick work of Indiana, 25-13, 25-19, 25-19 on Saturday night. Foecke’s 14 kills led the way on a night the Huskers hit .388 to win their 16th straight in the series.
“I thought it was a pretty good effort by the Huskers tonight,” Cook said on a post-match radio interview. “This is not an easy place to play in. It takes awhile to get used to the gym. I thought Indiana came out and played well in Game 1, but every game we busted it open with a big run.”
Nebraska (22-6 overall, 13-5 Big Ten) will take a six-match winning streak into the final weekend of the regular season when the Huskers will host two teams in the bottom half of the conference — Ohio State and Maryland — on Friday and Saturday. Winning both matches would ensure that NU finishes no lower than third in the conference behind Minnesota and Illinois.
Unlike in Friday’s win at No. 12 Purdue, when the Huskers had to hold off late charges in the first two sets, Nebraska took control earlier in front of 1,363 fans in Bloomington.
NU ended the first set on a 14-3 run after leading 11-10 behind Foecke’s six Game 1 kills. In Game 2, Nebraska scored seven unanswered points to snap a 13-13 tie, and Stivrins had three of her seven Game 3 kills in a 6-1 run that put the Huskers in control up 17-11 in the finale.
Stivrins reached double-digit kills for the third straight match, finishing with 11 kills on 21 errorless swings to raise her season hitting percentage to .395. The 6-foot-4 sophomore middle blocker has an outside chance to become the first Husker in nine years to hit .400 for a season.
“We got those big runs that kind of blew those games open. Good job by us,” Cook said. “Any time you can win two in a row on the road in the Big Ten it’s a great weekend. I thought our team prepared really well, and mentally, came in here with a really good mindset.”
An upset of Nebraska might well have moved Indiana (16-13, 7-11) to the right side of the NCAA tournament bubble, but no Hoosier reached double-digit kills on Saturday. The Huskers bottled up freshman Breana Edwards and sophomore Kamryn Malloy, who combined for 41 kills in a Friday win over Iowa. Both had seven kills against NU.
Freshman Lexi Johnson, daughter of Major League Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Randy Johnson, led Indiana with eight kills and hit .375.
Husker setter Nicklin Hames saw her streak of double-doubles end at 13 matches, but the freshman handed out 39 assists and kept Indiana off balance by spreading the ball around. Capri Davis and Jazz Sweet combined for eight kills on 14 swings sharing time at the opposite position, and freshman middle Callie Schwarzenbach added six kills.
“I thought Nicklin has been getting better, and that’s one of the reasons our team has been better and playing at a higher level,” Cook said. “She’s just getting more and more confident. She looks more and more relaxed.”
The Huskers also dusted off a back-row attack from outside hitter Lexi Sun that had been on the shelf in recent weeks. Sun had eight kills with just one error to hit a season-best .438 while coming up with a match-high 16 digs.
“When Lexi decides she wants to run it, we run it,” Cook said of Sun hitting from the back row. “Sometimes she doesn’t run it, and you can’t set it if they don’t go. We want that, and I think we’re going to work really hard on that in the next two weeks to develop that because it is a weapon.
“She likes a little higher set than Mikaela, so Nicklin has got to set two different balls, but she gets on it pretty good, and it’s hard to defend.”
No. 6 Nebraska (22-6, 13-5 Big Ten)….....25 25 25
At Indiana (16-13, 7-11)….......................13 19 19
N (Kills-Aces-Blocks): Foecke 14-0-3, Stivrins 11-1-4, Sun 8-2-0, Schwarzenbach 6-0-2, Davis 4-0-0, Sweet 4-0-2, Hames 2-0-0, Miller 0-1-0, Maloney 0-1-0
I: Johnson 8-0-1, Edwards 7-0-2, Malloy 7-1-0, Huybers 6-0-3, Asdell 5-0-0, Lofton 1-0-0
Set Assists: N 44 (Hames 39, Sun 2, Maloney 2, Miller 1), I 32 (Brisack 18, Westenhofer 14)