No. 5 Nebraska made short work of Iowa at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Saturday night, sweeping the Hawkeyes in 78 minutes.
It was the 600th win of John Cook’s Nebraska career, though it’s not one that will stick out in his memory when he looks back at his legendary career.
“All I think about is the losses — last week to Ohio State by two points, Stanford in the Final Four; that’s where my mind goes on that stuff, the ones we could have had or should have had or had a chance to get,” Cook said. “I really don’t worry about that stuff too much. Just looking forward to getting better on Monday.”
Nebraska took down the Hawkeyes 25-14, 25-20, 25-13 while out-hitting the Hawkeyes .397 to .013. The Huskers swept the Hawkeyes in Iowa City earlier in the week as well and are 12-2 on the season.
“Great response Wednesday night,” Cook said. “They had a great response in practice. I thought for two games tonight we played at a really high level. Iowa I just think really felt a lot of pressure. We let up a little bit in game two but we got out of that quick and then came back strong in game three. Iowa does some good things. They pass really well, they serve really well. But I think our block and defense really stressed them and I think offensively when you’re siding out like we were, you feel like you can never get in the match.”
Nebraska had to play short-handed on Saturday as the Huskers have lost Riley Zuhn for the rest of the season with a broken bone in her foot. Defensive specialists Hayley Densberger and Emma Gabel were also not with the team because of contact tracing.
With Zuhn in street clothes, Jazz Sweet stepped into the starting lineup for the second straight match and delivered her best performance of the season with 12 kills on .733 hitting (just one attack error) and three block assists.
“I feel really good,” Sweet said. “It’s always great to be able to help my team, especially to help them score in a game like this and go 3-0. I just had a lot of fun and it was just fun to be out there and play with them and help contribute tonight.”
Lexi Sun matched Sweet with 12 kills on .526 hitting, six digs and three blocks. Callie Schwarzenbach started in place of Kayla Caffey and produced four kills on five swings and five block assists. Nicklin Hames finished with 31 assists, seven digs, three kills, two aces and a block. Nebraska out-dug Iowa 31 to 18 and out-blocked the Hawkeyes 8.0 to 5.0.
Nebraska got off to a slow start as Iowa won the first four rallies, but the Huskers quickly erased the deficit with a 4-0 run. Iowa pulled ahead 6-4 but Nebraska took control, outscoring the Hawkeyes 15-4 to take a 19-10 lead, and the Huskers cruised from there.
Sweet and Schwarzenbach teamed up for the block on set point to seal the victory. Sweet had three kills on four swings in the first set as the Huskers hit .444. Iowa was in the negative all set, finishing at minus-.077.
Sweet got the second set started with a kill, Iowa tied it up on the next rally and then the Huskers pulled ahead and led the rest of the way. Nebraska used a 9-2 run to take a 13-5 lead and draw Iowa’s first timeout.
The Hawkeyes didn’t fold, however, chipping away at Nebraska’s lead until it was down to three at 15-12 and 16-13. Both sides got a little sloppy from there with attack and service errors accounting for most of the next several points. Iowa cut the deficit to two three times, but the Huskers closed out the match with three straight kills from Stivrins, Madi Kubik and Sun.
“We called a timeout and I just reminded them we can’t play the scoreboard,” Cook said. “You lose your focus for a little bit and that’s when you start making errors. It started with a serve into the bottom of the net from Lexi and then we made another error and another error after that, hit a couple balls out. I always say a net serve’s worth two points, ad that’s what started it. Then we refocused, and this team’s learn how to do that; they can reset and go. That’s our experience and we’ve learned how to do that much better than last year.”
Sweet terminated on five or her six swings to push her total to eight. Nebraska hit .238 in the set while holding the Hawkeyes to .037.
The Huskers scored the first three points of set three and never looked back. Stivrins served a 6-0 run that blew the game wide open and gave Nebraska a 15-5 lead as the Huskers converted 10 of their first 12 swings into kills.
They cooled off a bit but continued to dominate the action, stretching the lead out to 12 at 21-9 before trading sideouts the rest of the way. Sun delivered the final kill on match point, tooling the Iowa block.
Nebraska hit .517 with 17 kills in the set as Sun terminated seven times on 10 attempts. The Hawkeyes hit .083, which was just enough to get above zero for the match.
The Huskers have two series left in the regular season barring the Big Ten rescheduling any postponed matches. Next up is a trip to Michigan to face the Wolverines on Thursday (7 p.m. CT) and Friday (6 p.m.), both on Big Ten Network.
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.