No. 6 Nebraska bowled over the Maryland Terrapins 25-11, 25-15, 25-16 in front of 8,031 fans at the Devaney Center on Wednesday night, improving to 21-4 overall overall and 14-1 in Big Ten play.
“Our team did a nice job tonight,” Coach John Cook said. “They played some good volleyball, did some nice things, served really tough and pressured Maryland. The biggest thing we can take from this is we’ll see a different Maryland team when we go there in 10 days or whatever it is. This time of year it’s about taking care of business and getting it done and being efficient. I thought we maintained, with the exception of the start of game two, we maintained our focus really well and did some nice things tonight.”
The Huskers led wire-to-wire in the first and third sets as Nebraska played from ahead for most of the match. Nebraska dominated from the service line, putting down 10 aces with just five errors while the Terps (16-11, 5-10) managed just one ace and seven miscues.
“Our strategy every game is to serve really tough,” setter Kelly Hunter said. “Coach Cook always gives us a good zone where he thinks the best matchup is and we just go back there, we try to take a deep breath and stick it with your hand contact. Hopefully the ball moves, and it was moving tonight.”
Hunter finished with a career-high four aces, 34 assists, six digs and two blocks. She spread the ball around all over the court as four different players put down between seven and nine kills and Annika Albrecht led the team in attempts with 17.
“For me, it just makes my job really easy. I know kind of wherever I put the ball up we have someone who is going to put it away and I don’t have to be like, ‘Oh, I need to set this person every single time.’ I think it’s really good just for our team and for our system because not every team is like that, so it’s a little but easier to scheme or scout them. I think just keeping our balanced attack is great and it kind of keeps the other team always guessing where we’re going.”
Freshman middle blocker Lauren Stivrins led the team with nine kills on 11 swings and three blocks. She went a perfect 3-for-3 on converting swings to kills in the first and third sets.
“She’s got to be offensive because she’s up there with Kelly twice,” Cook said. “She’s going to get double-blocked sometimes and then she’s going to have single blocks. We have to be able to go with her whether it’s a perfect pass or an off pass. Her and Kelly are just getting into a really nice rhythm where Kelly is comfortable setting her under stress a little bit and Lauren’s going to do something with it.”
Junior outside hitter Mikaela Foecke added eight kills and a team-best nine digs while Albrecht chipped in eight kills including one on match point.
Nebraska made short work of the Terrapins in the first set, racing out to a 12-4 lead thanks to a 6-0 run. Nebraska continued to expand the lead the rest of the set, hitting .571 in the frame and serving up four aces while holding the Terps to .083.
Maryland regrouped between sets, taking an early lead and expanding it to as much as four at 10-6, but the Huskers reeled off an 8-0 run with freshman reserve Hayley Densberger at the service line.
Redshirt freshman Hunter Atherton had moved ahead of Densberger in the serving rotation in the last week or two but Cook went back to Densberger and the Malcolm, Nebraska, product rewarded him.
“That just shows you how strong our bench players are,” Stivrins said. “They’re ready to go in at any time. If given the opportunity, they’re going to take it. That’s what makes this group so special … Our team has so much confidence in her going back there. When she stepped on the court, I was like ‘Get it, girl.’”
Atherton came in for Nebraska’s first serve of the match and fired an ace, but two of her next four serves were errors and Cook turned to Densberger.
“Hunter didn’t look real confident in her serves even though she had a great serve and pass today and Hayley’s had a really good week of practice serving because I think Hayley realizes ‘I’ve got to turn it up if I want to play,’” Cook said. “Hunter just looked really tentative so I put in Hayley, and she served like she’s been serving in practice the last two days and was really going after it. It looks like she’s got her confidence back.”
Maryland scored the next two points after that 8-0 run to cut its defect to two, but Nebraska dominated the rest of the set, outscoring the Terps 11-3.
Nebraska opened the third set on a 7-1 run and never trailed as the Terrapins got no closer than four points the rest of the way. The Huskers blew the game wide open with an 8-2 run and cruised to the finish line for the sweep.
Nebraska will get a few days off before returning to the Devaney Center to host Rutgers (5-22, 0-15) on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. The match will be televised on NET.
Jacob Padilla has been writing for Hail Varsity since 2015. He covers football, volleyball men’s basketball and prep sports. He also co-hosts the Nebraska Preps Postgame and Nebraska Shootaround podcasts for the Hurrdat Media and Hail Varsity podcast networks. 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.