No. 3 Nebraska dropped its first set to Iowa since 1987 but the Huskers rallied to dominate the rest of the way as the Huskers (14-1, 5-0) took down the Hawkeyes (10-6, 2-3) 25-10, 23-25, 25-15, 25-11 at the Devaney Center on Wednesday night.
The Huskers out hit the Hawkeyes .373 to .071 and served up 11 aces in front of a crowd of 8,097. The Huskers had swept the Hakweyes in 18 straight matches prior to the four-set win on Wednesday.
“I thought we played three really solid games and let game two get away from us and made two errors at the end of the game to lose that game,” Coach John Cook said. “Hopefully we’re going to learn from that and be a little tougher when we get to a tight game like that and try to continue to play a little more consistent when we’ve got a team down and doing a good job. But I’m very pleased with how we kind of responded and we held them to .071, so I feel really good about that. I thought our serving was a little shaky out of the gate and that got really good as the match went on. We did a lot of really good things.”
Senior outside hitter Mikaela Foecke kept up her torrid pace with 20 kills on .459 hitting. Sophomore opposite hitter Jazz Sweet added 15 kills on .300 hitting and sophomore outside hitter Lexi Sun chipped in 13 kills on .385 hitting, 13 digs and three aces.
“Those guys were taking really good swings tonight whether we were in system or out of system,” Cook said. “They just made a couple mistakes tonight, otherwise they put a lot of pressure on Iowa.”
Freshman setter Nicklin Hames had 47 assists, 11 digs and three kills while senior libero Kenzie Maloney added 12 digs.
Nebraska used a 3-0 run early in the first set to take an 8-4 lead then took control with a 4-0 run soon after capped by an ace from Hames that put the Huskers up 13-7. Iowa used a timeout to regroup and scored the first point out of the break but the Huskers ripped off a 5-0 run after that to take an 18-8 lead. Iowa only managed to muster two more points the rest of the way as Nebraska ended the set on a 4-0 run served by Hayley Densberger featuring back-to-back aces to seal the victory.
Nebraska closed the game on a 16-3 run. The Huskers did not commit a single attack error, hitting a season-high .789 (15 kills on 19 swings). Foecke and Sun led the Huskers with four kills on five swings each.
The Hawkeyes flipped the match on its head in the second set as this time it was Iowa that used a 3-0 run to jump out to an 8-4 lead early. After putting together a clean first set, the Huskers committed four attack errors on their first 15 swings.
Nebraska put together three straight to pull within one at 12-11, tied it at 14-14 and took the lead at 16-15, but Iowa responded with four in a row to retake the lead 19-16. Nebraska battled back to tie it at 23-23 but served long to give the Hawkeyes set point then hit wide down the line to end the set.
Iowa out-hit Nebraska .267 to .209. After serving up five aces with just one error in the first set, Nebraska reversed those numbers in the second.
“I don’t know how many service errors we made that game and we got aced a couple times, we started passing the ball off the net, then we made a couple hitting errors out of system,” Cook said. “Lexi got blocked on one, I think Jazz hit that one out. We just made a combination of errors from attacking, serving and passing that allowed Iowa to be in that game, and Iowa did a nice job. We made a comeback, but we didn’t finish it.”
Nebraska righted the ship in game three, jumping out to a 4-1 lead to get things started. The Huskers stretched the lead out gradually until a 5-0 run served by Stivrins gave the Huskers a 15-6 lead at the third set media timeout. The Huskers cruised from there to take a 2-1 lead in the match.
Nebraska didn’t slow down in the slightest to start the fourth set, jumping out to a 7-1 lead behind back-to-back aces by Sun and a kill by Sweet. The lead never dipped below five the rest of the way as the Huskers held the Hawkeyes to -.125 in the set. Foecke closed out the match with her 20th kill, marking her third match of the season with 20-plus kills.
After allowing the Hawkeyes to hit .235 in the first two sets, the Huskers held them to -.065 over the final two.
“I think we cleaned up a lot of errors,” Foecke said. “I think in the first two sets, it might not reflect on the score sheet that we had a lot of errors, but it was a lot of things that we always work on in practice, just being in the right spot on defense, on blocking and just getting the ball where it needed to be. We didn’t do a very good job of that the first two sets and then sets three and four we really came out and we wanted to work on that hard, so I think we executed well.”
The Huskers will get the next couple of days off before returning to the Devaney Center to host No. 5 Minnesota (11-2, 5-0) on Saturday night. First serve is set for 7 p.m. on NET.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.