No. 5 Nebraska threw a block party in Bloomington on Saturday night, using a strong defensive performance to complete the weekend sweep over Indiana.
The Huskers swept the Hoosiers 25-21, 25-16, 25-19 ti improve to 2-0 on the season.
“It was a good win,” Coach John Cook said on the postgame radio show. “It’s tough beating a team twice a row. I thought we played better as the match went on. Indiana came out and was bombing serves right off and it took us a while to adjust to that, but I thought we got into a pretty good rhythm and our block got involved. I thought we served them really well tonight and our passing got better as the match went on.”
Nebraska hit .228 for the match, though unlike Friday’s match, they hit their best in the first set and declined in each of the last two sets. Senior outside hitter Lexi Sun led the Huskers with 11 kills for the second straight match, though she wasn’t as efficient as she was in round one with a .179 hitting percentage and six attack errors. Junior setter Nicklin Hames stuffed the stat sheet with 31 assists, eight digs, two blocks, one kill and one ace.
Sophomore libero Kenzie Knuckles led the defensive effort with 12 digs. Nebraska held Indiana .048 hitting with 25 attack errors, nearly half of which were directly forced by Nebraska’s defense at the net as the Huskers finished with 12 blocks. Senior Lauren Stivrins and junior Callie Schwarzenbach notched six blocks apiece. Stivrins also chipped in seven kills on a match-high .429 hitting.
“Tyler [Hildebrand] and Jaylen [Reyes] worked on the game plan on how to stop Indiana,” Cook said. “We were able to see video, we were able to make adjustments, we were able to get some tendencies on them and our players do a really nice job of following the game plan. I think we had five blocks last night and 12 tonight. Really good adjustments by our team and by our staff.”
Schwarzenbach got the start and played the whole match at the second middle blocker spot after Missouri transfer Kayla Caffey started on Friday.
“Our plan was to split those guys this weekend because they’ve been really close in practice along with Kalynn Meyer,” Cook said. “So that was our plan going in and I wanted to do that. You can’t play just six players for the next 11 weeks back-to-back, so we’ve got to get some more people in. I tried to get Hayley Densberger in tonight. We were trying to get a double-sub in at the end there but we won it too quickly.
“We’ve got to start working some players in to get them comfortable because I think we’re going to need it when you’re playing the same team back-to-back. We may have to make some adjustments and we’ve got a lot of players that can help us, so I want to start trying to get them in matches.”
The Huskers took the lead early at 6-3 with a 4-0 run powered by Kenzie Knuckles’ serving that featured an ace. The Huskers held onto that lead until a 4-0 Hoosiers run tied it up at 12-all, but Nebraska responded in kind with four straight including a kill and a block assist by Schwarzenbach.
Indiana cut the deficit down to one three times before tying it up again at 19-19 and 20-20, but the Hoosiers couldn’t get over the hump as Nebraska closed the set on a 5-1 run to take a 1-0 lead.
After six attack errors in the first 38 rallies, Nebraska cleaned things up down the stretch to hit .314 in the set while holding Indiana to .200.
Nebraska jumped out to an 8-3 lead and controlled the action the rest of the way in set two. The Huskers closed the game on an 8-3 run to pick up the eight-point victory and take a 2-0 lead.
The Huskers held the Hoosiers to 0.27 hitting while hitting .273 themselves. Sun led the Huskers with five kills in the set while Lauren Stivrins put down four kills on seven swings.
Nebraska jumped out to a 6-0 lead despite taking just one swing during that stretch thanks to their strong defensive effort. The Huskers hit .000 for much of the set but Indiana still drew no closer than three points the rest of the way. The Huskers pulled ahead by seven a handful of times, but Indiana showed some resiliency by battling back and keeping it somewhat close. Sun and Stivins teamed up on match point to close it out with a block, Nebraska’s seventh of the set.
Senior opposite hitter Jazz Sweet made her season debut on match point as Cook used her as a blocking sub for Hames in the front row.
The Huskers only hit .091 but held Indiana to minus-.027 with 11 attack errors.
Nebraska will make its home debut next weekend as Northwestern travels to Lincoln for a two-match series on Friday and Saturday.
“I think it will be fun to play at Devaney,” Cook said. “We had a lot of parents here tonight, which is pretty cool. I think it will be good to play and we’ll be fired up to play again next week. It’s fun to play instead of just practicing all the time.”
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.