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Huskers Topple Cardinal in Top-Five Clash

September 13, 2023

No. 4 Nebraska secured its first top-five road win since 2017 — and first-ever win at Stanford’s Maples Pavilion — by toppling the No. 5 Cardinal in four sets Tuesday night.

The Cornhuskers beat Stanford 25-23, 25-16, 19-25, 25-21 to snap a five-game losing streak against the Cardinal and improve to 8-0 on the season.

Nebraska hit .333 — a season-high against Stanford — and held the Cardinal to a season-low .218.

“It reminded me a lot of men’s volleyball; it was just pass, set, kill and we had to make a few plays,” Coach John Cook said during his post-match radio interview. “I think it was a stressful match because both teams were a little shaky at the service line — we were really shaky to start with — but I love how we compete. We really competed really hard and they did everything we prepped them on, how to manage this match and how to manage the plays that Stanford would make, how to manage the crowd. 

“They did everything really, really well, what we prepared for. Stanford’s a great team, they’ve got some great players. It’s a whole other level than what we’ve been playing.”

Merritt Beason led the Huskers with 15 kills on .273 hitting while Harper Murray added 12 kills on .417 hitting, six digs, four blocks and three aces. Middle blockers Andi Jackson and Bekka Allick combined for 15 kills on .480 hitting while Bergen Reilly dished out 37 assists with seven digs, three blocks and three kills.

“We took some big swings out of system, which we did a really good job of, but Bergen set middle,” Cook said. “She set behind really well. They finally started trapping Andi, so we started going back to the left side and tried to run more BICs. First couple of games, Merritt was on fire. And Bergen, you just tell her one thing and she makes adjustments in the game; that’s what separates her, I think, from a lot of setters, because we were constantly adjusting. They rotated after game two, so we had different matchups.You just tell her and she gets it done.”

Lexi Rodriguez led the defense with 12 digs while Allick was in on eight of the team’s 11 blocks to go with her seven kills.

“Bekka is a great competitor,” Cook said. “Jaylen [Reyes] had a talk with her yesterday; she had struggled the last couple matches. I don’t know what he said to her, but she was a beast tonight. She made some great blocks and got some great kills.”

The teams combined for 32 service errors (17 for Nebraska, 15 for Stanford) and served four aces apiece.

The teams traded blows — and service errors — throughout the first set with 11 ties and five lead changes. The last change came on a 3-0 run that put the Huskers ahead 23-21, and the teams traded sideouts the rest of the way as Beason closed it out with a kill on Nebraska’s second set-point opportunity.

“We talked about winning two-point games, and if you look at it, I think we lost four two-point games at Stanford the last two years we played them … The first thing I told them in the locker room, I said, ‘Game one, we finally won a two-point game,’” Cook said. “That was a huge two-point game to win — on the road, at Stanford when we were playing that well in the first game. We talk about it all the time, you’ve got to win two-point games.”

The Huskers only hit .200 to Stanford’s .222, but the Huskers earned an 8-6 edge in service points in the deuce game with two aces and five errors to Stanford’s one ace and six errors. Nebraska also recorded five blocks as Allick led the way with three blocks and three kills.

The second set wasn’t nearly as close as the Huskers terminated on their first seven swings and used a 5-0 run with Rodriguez at the service line to take a 7-3 lead early. Nebraska continued to terminate at a high rate throughout the set and the Cardinal got no closer than four points the rest of the way as Nebraska closed the set on an 8-3 run.

The Huskers hit a red-hot .696 in the set as Murray bounced back from a slow start in game one to terminate on seven of her eight swings in game two. Nebraska held Stanford to .192 hitting, out-digging the Cardinal 12 to five.

The third set looked much more like set one for much of the game with 11 ties and four lead changes, but the Huskers let the Cardinal get into too much of a rhythm as Stanford closed the set on a 9-3 run to extend the match.

After barely clearing .200 hitting in the first two sets, the Cardinal notched a .367 hitting percentage in game three while late errors bumped Nebraska’s percentage down to .167. Stanford’s Caitie Baird went off for seven kills on 12 errorless swings in game three.

The teams went back and forth early in game four, but the sixth and final tie came at 7-7. Nebraska got kills from Murray and Beason at that point to take the lead for good. Stanford kept it close for a bit, but the Huskers used a 6-1 run capped by an ace from Murray to extend the lead out to seven at 23-16. The Cardinal countered with a 5-1 run, but Jackson closed it out with a kill on Nebraska’s fourth match-point attempt.

Nebraska hit .333 behind six more kills from Beason while holding Stanford to .091.

“I’m just happy for them,” Cook said. “They’ve been working really hard and this was our first really big moment, and they stepped up and competed really well.”

Nebraska will return home to host No. 21 Kentucky on Sunday.

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