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Nebraska’s Sun continues to rise, shine as Huskers top Michigan State

September 24, 2018

LINCOLN — After missing the first eight matches because of injury, Lexi Sun continues to make up for lost time.

The 6-foot-2 sophomore pounded 15 kills Sunday to lead the third-ranked Huskers to a 25-18, 25-9, 21-25, 25-16 win over Michigan State in front of 8,102 at the Devaney Center

“Lexi got a lot of sets today,” NU coach John Cook said. “It’s only her fourth match but I’m pleased with the way she’s responded.”

Sun was a unanimous first-team All-Big 12 selection in her one season at Texas before transferring to Nebraska. She has 51 kills in four matches, including 29 in two conference wins this weekend.

Cook said it was important that other players step up offensively to take the heat off senior Mikaela Foecke, who had 12 kills against the Spartans.

“We need to get to a point where Mikaela isn’t carrying us,’’ he said. “That’ll be a key for us this season.’’

Foecke and Sun each had four kills in the opening set as NU won by seven. Michigan State trailed 17-15 but the Huskers outscored the Spartans 8-3 the rest of the way.

Nebraska was even better in the second set. The Huskers sprinted to a 6-1 lead and continued to widen that advantage.

A sweep appeared possible against Michigan State, which was swept Friday night at Iowa. That setback snapped the Spartans’ 12-match winning streak.

But Michigan State bounced back and never trailed in the third. NU closed to 22-20 but the Spartans won three of the next four points and took the set when a shot by Nebraska freshman setter Nicklin Hames sailed long.

“I went for it,’’ she said. “Apparently I’ve been working out too much.’’

Hames, who had 40 assists and 16 digs, said NU needed to regroup heading into the fourth.

“We focused on our side of the net,’’ she said. “It’s what we had to do.’’

Nebraska held the early lead in the fourth but the Spartans inched to 11-10 on a block by Alyssa Chronowski. The Huskers responded with a 6-0 run, fueled by two Foecke kills and three Michigan State hitting errors.

The Huskers (11-1, 2-0 Big Ten) continued to widen their lead and eventually captured the match on a kill by Sun. Cook said he was pleased with the victory but added that his team needs to develop more of a killer instinct.

“In this conference, you can’t let down,’’ he said. “We did a good job of responding in set four but ideally you don’t like to have to do that.’’

The coach added that the Spartan defense also deserved credit.

“When a team plays great defense, it’s something you can’t prepare for in practice,’’ he said.

Cook also noted his team had 21 errors, calling that “too many.’’

Jazz Sweet chipped in seven kills and libero Kenzie Maloney had a team-leading 17 digs.

Maddie Haggerty and Molly Johnson each had nine kills for the Spartans.

Nebraska returns to action Friday night at Northwestern, then plays at eighth-ranked and undefeated Illinois on Saturday.

“The next step is playing well on the road,’’ Cook said. “We’ve only been up to Omaha (a Sept. 6 win vs. Creighton) so we’ll see how we handle it.’’

Michigan State (12-3, 0-2).......... 18 9 25 16

At Nebraska (11-1, 2-0)............25 25 21 25

MSU (kills-aces-blocks): Midgette 1-0-0, Haggerty 9-0-1, Chronowski 8-2-3, Gros 4-2-6, Johnson 9-0-3, Poljan 4-0-3, Shklyar 0-0-1. Totals 35-4-17.

NU: Hames 2-2-3, Foecke 12-1-2, Sun 15-1-1, Sweet 7-0-5, Schwarzenbach 2-0-5, Stivrins 7-1-7, Maloney 0-2-0. Totals 45-7-23.

Set assists: MSU 32 (Shklyar 19, Midgette 12, Cox 1), NU 45 (Hames 40, Foecke 2, Maloney 2, Sun 1). T: 1:46. A: 8,102.

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