Minnesota finds holes in Nebraska’s defense, ends Husker win streaks
LINCOLN — Twice Nebraska has captured an NCAA championship in front of home-state fans at a backyard final four. With this year’s championships taking place in Minneapolis, Minnesota’s seeking to turn the trick itself to win its first national title.
After taking apart No. 3 Nebraska 25-20, 23-25, 25-14, 25-21 on Saturday night, the No. 5-ranked Gophers might just have the team to do it. Minnesota’s win leaves the Gophers alone atop the Big Ten standings, undefeated at 6-0 in league play, and snapped a pair of Nebraska win streaks.
The Huskers’ strings of 14 straight victories and 18 consecutive wins against Big Ten opponents came to an end.
Freshman outside hitter Adanna Rollins had a career-high 17 kills to lead Minnesota (12-2, 6-0 Big Ten), which hit a Nebraska opponent season-high .280. Four Gophers reached double-digit kills with Rollins joined by Taylor Morgan (13), Alexis Hart (11), and Stephanie Samedy (10).
Mikaela Foecke’s 16 kills led four Huskers in double figures. Jazz Sweet had 13 kills, Lexi Sun added 12, and Lauren Stivrins had 10, but Nebraska hit .194 to drop to 5-1 in the Big Ten.
Minnesota’s All-American setter Samantha Seliger-Swenson had a double-double with 45 assists and 14 digs, while Samedy led the Gophers with 18 recoveries.
Nicklin Hames and Kenzie Maloney each had 18 digs to lead Nebraska. Stivrins had five blocks, while Sun, Sweet, and Callie Schwarzenbach each added four stuffs.
Game 1: Minnesota took the first serve and put the Huskers on their heels early.
Taylor Morgan scored two early kills on NU overpasses, and when freshman libero CC McGraw landed an ace, the Huskers burned a quick timeout trailing 7-2 after the Gophers scored kills on five of their first seven swings.
Nebraska got back in it with a 3-0 run that started with two errors by Gopher freshman Adanna Rollins. Lauren Stivrins’s tip landed to pull the Huskers to within 8-6.
Minnesota reestablished some distance going up 13-9 on Rollins’s fourth kill of the set, but the Huskers again ran off three in a row with Jazz Sweet forcing a Minnesota timeout after a solo block and an out-of-system kill to pull NU within 13-12.
But the Huskers’ passing again suffered as Sweet committed three straight errors followed by a Mikaela Foecke misfire to make it 17-12 Minnesota.
Nebraska made one final push for the opener, a 4-1 run sparked by three Lexi Sun kills to pull within 20-18, but Minnesota was too effective in the final rallies, stringing together three straight points. The set ended on a Foecke error.
Morgan and Rollins each had five kills in Game 1 as Minnesota hit .350 in the set. Nebraska hit .167 with Foecke, Sun, and Sweet each notching four kills.
Game 2: It was a much better start for the Huskers in Game 2 with Foecke burying two early kills, including off a cross-court bump set from Nicklin Hames. Lauren Stivrins came up with a block, and when Rollins fired long, NU was up 7-3.
It was 10-5 NU after a kill and a solo block by Sun, but the Huskers erred twice in a 3-0 Gopher run to cut the lead to 10-8, forcing a Nebraska timeout.
The Huskers pushed the lead to 14-10 on kills by Sun and Foecke before the Gophers responded with seven of the next nine points to go on top 17-16.
Minnesota led 21-19 before the Huskers got back to even with back-to-back blocks, both featuring freshman Callie Schwarzenbach, to force a Gopher timeout tied 21-21.
NU went in front for good when the Gophers couldn’t control Foecke’s tip to put Nebraska on top 23-22. Stivrins and Sweet blocked Rollins on the next rally to give the Huskers two set points, and after a missed serve, Sweet’s cross-court kill ended the set to tie it 1-1 at the intermission.
Foecke had seven kills on 17 attacks in Game 2, while Sweet added four kills. The Huskers hit .189 in the second set, but held Minnesota to .111 with nine hitting errors. Five of those came on Nebraska blocks.
Morgan had five more kills in Game 2 for the Gophers.
Game 3: After a tight beginning, the Gophers broke a 9-9 tie with a 6-2 run that again showcased some tough serving that put Nebraska in a bind.
Samantha Seliger-Swenson and Regan Pittman teamed up to block Foecke’s out-of-system swing. Then, Stephanie Samedy’s ace put Minnesota on top 15-11 at the media timeout.
It would grow to 11 straight Gopher points as Samedy landed another ace right between Sweet and Kenzie Maloney, with two more Pittman kills coming in the stretch. The Huskers committed three hitting errors during the drought, which led John Cook to sit Foecke for the rest of Game 3, inserting freshman Capri Davis.
Nebraska finally staunched the bleeding with three straight points, but Minnesota, fittingly, ended the set on another misdirected NU pass, which Pittman slammed to the court to give the Gophers a 2-1 lead in the match.
NU hit .030 in Game 3 with eight kills and seven errors.
Game 4: Samedy’s serving again helped Minnesota to an early lead in the clincher with three straight points to put the Gophers up 7-4.
Minnesota followed that with another 4-1 run to lead 11-6 and went on top 17-10 with three straight kills from Samedy, Pittman, and Rollins. The Gophers scored on 14 of their first 18 swings of the set without committing an error.
The Huskers mounted a comeback with Stivrins putting down a kill and firing an ace, followed by Callie Schwarzenbach and Sun teaming up to block Morgan to trim the Gophers’ lead to 19-16.
But Nebraska would get no closer than three points. Alexis Hart had the Gophers next two kills, and Rollins and Pittman teamed up to stuff Sweet, making it 23-18 Minnesota. The Gophers’ final two kills came from Samedy and a dump by Seliger-Swenson.
Minnesota hit .486 in Game 4. NU swung at .406 led by six kills on eight attacks from Stivrins.
Before starting a four-match road trip that includes a rematch with the Gophers in Minneapolis, Nebraska will next face Indiana at the Devaney Center on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
No. 5 Minnesota (12-2, 6-0 Big Ten)….....25 23 25 25
At No. 3 Nebraska (14-2, 5-1)…...............20 25 14 21