No. 5 Nebraska conducted a successful midweek business trip to Iowa City on Wednesday, sweeping the Hawkeyes at their new Xtream Arena to improve to 32-0 all-time against the Hawkeyes.
Nebraska swept Iowa 25-19, 25-21, 25-11 to improve to 11-2 on the season. Nebraska hit .356 while holding the Hawkeyes to .119.
“I thought the first game was really good, really competitive,” Coach John Cook said during his postgame radio appearance on the Husker Sports Network. “Iowa was doing some great things, we were struggling with their serves. But we kind of stayed with it and once our passing settled down I thought we started stressing their passers with our serves. I thought things started rolling in our favor game two and then game three we got on them really good and I think they were having a hard time putting the ball away.”
Senior Lexi Sun led everyone with 14 kills on .333 hitting, 12 digs and two aces. Fellow outside hitter Madi Kubik added 10 kills on .364 hitting. Lauren Stivrins posted another incredibly efficient night with eight errorless kills, hitting .615 with three blocks. Cook gave senior Jazz Sweet the start at opposite hitter and she responded with seven kills on .417 hitting. Setter Nicklin hames dished out 37 assists, notched seven digs, put down three kills and recorded two blocks.
“We want to try to be hard to defend,” Cook said. “Once we were getting Nicklin the ball in a good spot, then she can do her thing. We gave up that big run in game one because we just couldn’t pass. We were struggling passing. But our players did a really nice job of adjusting. This is the best serving team statistically in the Big Ten in the number system that we use and I thought they got us early, but then we settled down pretty good.”
Nebraska committed seven service errors to four by Iowa, but the Huskers also doubled up the Hawkeyes in aces, four to two.
Nebraska got off to a fast start on offense, converting their first eight swings into kills, but three early service errors allowed the Hawkeyes to stay in it. A 4-0 run featuring three kills by Sun and a Stivrins slide termination gave Nebraska a 6-2 lead, but the Hawkeyes rallied to take the lead a 10-9 thanks to back-to-back Nebraska attack errors.
Nebraska scored two in a row to briefly take back the lead, but Iowa surged ahead and took a 15-13 lead into the media timeout. After Nebraska’s first eight swings produced kills, the Huskers next 12 included four kills and four errors.
Iowa did not record an error on its first 21 attacks, but three straight errors after that allowed the Huskers to pull ahead again at 19-17. After trading a few sideouts, Nebraska closed out the set with a 5-0 run capped by an ace from Akana.
Nebraska hit .424 in the first set led by Sun with six kills on .444 hitting, Kubik with five kills on .444 hitting and Stivrins with four kills on five swings. Iowa hit .212, though Edina Schmidt got loose for five kills on .455 hitting.
Stivrins hasn’t served much this season, but Cook left her back there on Wednesday night and she delivered, serving up a 5-0 run to hive the Huskers a 7-2 lead early in the second set. Stivrins had four service errors, but she also had an ace and two digs while playing middle back, including one that got the Huskers fired up in the bench area.
“She’s one of our best competitors and we want to give her as many chances to compete as we can,” Cook said. “It was good to see that tonight. We’ll keep working on that.”
Nebraska extended its lead to six at 15-9 before the Hawkeyes buckled down and scored five straight.
The Huskers responded out of a timeout with back-to-back kills from Sun. Iowa cut it to 17-16 and 20-18, but each time the Huskers responded to maintain their lead. Nebraska scored three straight to pull ahead by five, Iowa responded with three straight and then the Huskers closed out the set with a kill from Sweet and an Iowa error.
Nebraska hit .250 in the set led by five more kills from Sun. The Huskers held the Hawkeyes to .162 and limited Schmidt to two kills in the second set, though Courtney Buzzer got going with six kills on eight swings.
Nebraska rolled through the third set, jumping out to a 7-1 run including a 5-0 run served by Kubik. Iowa responded with two kills out of a timeout, but that’s as close as the Hawkeyes would get the rest of the way as Nebraska steadily extended the lead. An 8-2 run midway through the set below the game wide open and the Huskers cruised to the finish line from there.
Nebraska hit .429 with 14 kills and just two errors while holding the Hawkeyes to minus-.032. Buzzer and Schmidt had one kill apiece in game three.
“Teams are hard to defend when everybody can kill the ball, as we know,” Cook said. “Iowa tonight, Buzzerio was hot early but we started shutting her down and [Schmidt] they ended up subbing out, she was really good early and we did a nice job adjusting on her. They became pretty predictable and we’re just trying to do the opposite of that.”
The Huskers and Hawkeyes will get together on Saturday for a rematch at the Devaney Center. First serve is set for 6 p.m. CT on NET locally and BTN Plus.
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.