OMAHA, Neb. – Coach John Cook said it was a long day for No. 10 Nebraska volleyball, which played its final two matches of the Omaha Challenge in Baxter Arena Saturday.
After having its six-match win streak snapped by Northern Iowa (10-4) in the first game, the Huskers (7-3) bounced back with a 26-24, 25-15, 25-13 sweep against the Omaha Mavericks.
“It’s a long day for us being in the gym over here, and then the other match went an hour late,” Cook said. “It’s just a long day hanging out in here trying to warm up. I’m glad the two-a-days are over—of tournaments—now it’s just one match per day.”
Nebraska’s second match of the day was originally scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. start, but because the Northern Iowa-Kansas State match went the full five sets, the Huskers and Mavericks didn’t start until 8:40 p.m.
When the match finally started, Omaha (3-10) challenged Nebraska in the first set, taking a 15-11 at the media timeout. The Huskers, however, chipped away at the deficit, eventually tying the score 19-19.
With a 25-24 lead, senior outside hitter Annika Albrecht scored the set-winning kill for Nebraska.
Nebraska took control in the second set, winning by a more comfortable margin, 25-15. The Huskers hit .400 in the second set after hitting just .159 in the first.
Nebraska closed out the sweep winning the third set 25-13, hitting .500 and holding Omaha to .118.
Albrecht had a match-high 15 kills for the Huskers.
Cook said the best thing Albrecht did for the team was simply compete.
“She was battling every point and I’m not sure I can say that all day today about everybody else on our team,” Cook said. “She competed really hard today. She’s a fun player to watch. She does a lot of things really well.”
Junior middle blocker Briana Holman went down in the third set with an ankle injury. Holman laid on the floor for a couple minutes before she made her way to the bench with assistance from her teammates.
Cook said it looked like Holman came down on the foot of Albrecht. He added he does not know the extent of the injury and they will know more early this week.
Omaha coach Rose Shires said this weekend, as the host school for the Omaha Challenge, was about earning respect.
“To have the opportunity to play Nebraska and play Nebraska on our home court was an exceptional opportunity and we wanted to take advantage of it,” Shires said.
The two schools last met in 1990.
Shires said the Mavericks made “tremendous strides as a program” this weekend, and also received positive comments for Baxter Arena and the type of volleyball her team plays.
“We walk off the floor respecting ourselves as a program and as a team,” Shires said. “These kids, on my team, I believe validated the fact that they are a strong volleyball program. I hope that the City of Omaha, the metro area, the media, understands that we play very good volleyball as well. It may not be as high and it may not be as hard, but we play very good volleyball and we play with the intent to win.”
Nebraska lost its first match of the day 3-1 (25-20, 25-23, 14-25, 25-21) against Northern Iowa. The Panthers earned their fourth victory over a top-25 opponent this season.
The Huskers trailed for a majority of the first set, and couldn’t complete a comeback in the second set, after trailing by 10 points.
Six early kills led to a 25-14 win in set three for Nebraska, which hit .478 with 12 kills and one error in the set.
Northern Iowa responded by winning a back-and-forth fourth set 25-21, giving it the match victory.
The Huskers and Panthers had nearly identical hitting percentages. Nebraska hit .233 and Northern Iowa hit .232.
Albrecht led all Huskers with 15 kills.
Nebraska begins Big Ten play next Friday on the road against No. 2 Penn State at 7 p.m. The match will be aired on BTN.