One streak ends, but most important ones keep going for Nebraska volleyball team
Suspense for the Nebraska volleyball team – the all-time winningest program in the sport – comes in different ways than many teams.
The suspense usually isn’t if the Huskers will beat an unranked opponent, or make the NCAA Tournament.
The suspense during the Huskers’ 25-10, 23-25, 25-15, 25-11 victory against Iowa on Wednesday came late in the second set. Iowa hadn’t won any sets against Nebraska since 1987, with the Huskers having 18 consecutive sweeps against Iowa. With the second set close, would this be the night that Iowa took a set from the Huskers?
Iowa got out to leads of 11-6 and 19-16 in the second set. Nebraska tied the match at 23, but then had serving and hitting errors on the final two points of the set. So the suspense was over. Iowa won a set against the Huskers.
Those errors on the final two rallies were among the five serving and eight hitting errors the Huskers had in the second set. Nebraska also had some problems passing serves.
“We made a nice comeback, but we didn’t finish it,” Nebraska coach John Cook.
That’s the standard for Nebraska volleyball, where the coach gets asked about losing one set, but not the match. Iowa has been getting better the past few years, and came within two points of winning a set from the Huskers four times in recent years.
There wasn’t as much suspense the rest of the match, as Nebraska breezed to the win at the Devaney Sports Center.
In the third set Nebraska took a quick 17-8 lead, and won 25-15 for a 2-1 match lead. In the fourth set Lexi Sun served consecutive aces for a 6-1 lead and Nebraska was on its way to finishing off the match.
Iowa had a negative hitting percentage in each of the final two sets, and the Huskers’ nation-leading defense held Iowa to .071 hitting for the match.
“When you win three games 10, 15 and 11, we’re doing something pretty good,” said Cook, referring to the Hawkeyes’ scores in sets one, three and four.
Nebraska had 10 blocks, and has now had at least nine blocks in each of its last eight matches. Nebraska also served 11 aces.
While one mostly insignificant streak ended, the winning streaks kept going for the third-ranked Huskers (14-1, 5-0 Big Ten). That makes 14 consecutive wins this season, 18 consecutive wins over two seasons in Big Ten matches, and 28 straight wins against Iowa.
Iowa (10-6, 2-3 Big Ten) is having a good season, but couldn’t come close to matching the Huskers’ hitters. Nebraska had 58 kills, which was 26 more than Iowa.
Outside hitter Mikaela Foecke had another great match in season with numerous ones already. She had 20 kills, which was five more than any other player in the match. She had just three hitting errors on 37 attempts for a .459 hitting percentage.
Right-side hitter Jazz Sweet had a season-best 15 kills. Sun had one of her best matches as a Husker with 13 kills on .385 hitting, and also a team-best 13 digs.
Of her success hitting in the match, and this season, Foecke said Nebraska having so many good hitters is benefiting her, because a team can’t always focus its blocking on her.
“That’s one of the best things about Nebraska volleyball is we are so balanced that it frees up blocks for us,” Foecke said.
Foecke is modest. Sun sees another reason why Foecke is so good.
“Foecke can hit about every shot that there is in the book,” Sun said.
Cook was also impressed with how effective the Huskers’ outside hitters were.
“I told (Mikaela) and Lexi they put on a clinic tonight hitting,” he said.