LINCOLN, Neb. – The No. 3 Nebraska volleyball team took to the court for the first time since having their 28-match winning streak snapped by Ohio State last Saturday. After struggling a bit in the first set, Nebraska rallied to win and made short work of the Hoosiers in the second and third sets to sweep them 25-23, 25-13, 25-17 in front of a crowd of 8,019 at the Devaney Center.
“It’s a good win,” Coach John Cook said. “I was really, really surprised we were tentative in game one because I felt like we were ready to unleash but we just were real tentative. We found a way to win game one and I thought from there we kind of just took a deep breath, relaxed and started playing Husker volleyball. Our block started getting involved, our defense got involved, we served really well, we passed really well and Indiana started making a lot of errors.”
The first set saw 15 ties and seven lead changes as neither team was able to create any separation. Nebraska took the biggest lead of the match at 21-18, but after a timeout Indiana regrouped and ripped off a 5-1 run to pull ahead 23-22. Staring a potential fourth straight lost set in the face, Nebraska needed to dig deep.
“I don’t really know if we ever get nervous or feel pressure in that situation,” senior outside hitter Kadie Rolfzen said. “We do drills every day in practice where the other side is up like 22-19 and we have to get to 25 first. We do that every day in practice; it’s nothing new. Just making sure that we go point by point and just get it done.”
That’s exactly what they did, scoring the final three points to take the set 25-23. Junior outside hitter Annika Albrecht capped the set with an ace on set point.
“We went a short serve there and Anni got them,” Cook said. “I put some pressure on Anni to do that and she nailed it really well.”
After a brief back-and-forth early in the second set, the Huskers pulled away on the strength of their defense as they got their block started and covered up nearly everything behind it.
Nebraska didn’t record its first block until early in the second set, but when they finally did it sparked an 11-1 run that put the huskers up 15-7. Rolfzen said the Huskers were still working a bit of rust off from the long lay-off following the lost to Ohio State, but they figured out the Hoosiers’ temp in the second.
“Their offense was faster than a lot of the teams we’ve played this year and we knew that going in, but until you actually see it live, it takes a little bit to adjust and I just think that’s what happened today,” Rolfzen said. “It took us a little bit to adjust but once we started adjusting to it we did it really well.”
Senior libero Justine Wong-Orantes was seemingly everywhere behind that block in the second set, notching five of the team’s 10 digs by herself. Wong-Orantes finished with a team-high eight digs.
“I think it was just adjusting after that first set and just going with a mindset that nothing’s going to drop,” Wong-Orantes said. “For me, that’s what I want, to have that mindset every set against every team. I think the blocking just put us in a great position behind them and made our job a lot easier.”
Nebraska jumped on Indiana early to start the third set, taking a 7-2 lead early then expanding it to 14-7. The Hoosiers rallied back and pulled within three a few times but could draw no closer as Nebraska went on a 7-3 run to complete the sweep.
Kadie Rolfzen led the way for the Huskers with 9 kills on .438 hitting to go with three digs, three blocks and an ace. Junior middle blocker Briana Holman added six kills on her birthday. Cook also praised the play of junior defensive specialist Sydney Townsend, who pitched in four digs and an ace with no errors off the bench.
“I thought Sydney Townsend was awesome tonight,” Cook said. “Plays, serving, energy, making some digs. She was a really big bright spot today.”
Nebraska held a .250 to .052 edge in hitting and dominated at the service line with five aces to three errors compared to two aces and 10 errors by Indiana. The Huskers finished with seven blocks to just two for Indiana and also earned a 32-26 edge in digs.
Next up for the Huskers is a meeting with Purdue on Saturday.
“They had some great wins … They’ve got two 6-5 outside hitters, they’ve got a great middle in Faye [Adaleja], [Azariah] Stahl is an outside hitter who has been there for a couple [years],” Cook said. “They’re another really tough Big Ten team and they’ve got a couple top 10 wins [against Kansas and Stanford].”
First serve at the Devaney Center on Sunday is set for 2 p.m.
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.