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Madi Kubik (10)
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Kubik Powers Huskers Past Jayhawks in Grand Island

April 23, 2022

Nebraska volleyball took the show on the road on Saturday, facing Kansas in an exhibition match in Grand Island. The Heartland Events Center played host to a sold-out crowd of 6,117 as the Huskers took down the Jayhawks 3-1.

“Every time we come here it’s awesome,” Coach John Cook said. “The crowd’s great, the venue’s great, the people are great. They treat us really, really well. I thought this is one of the better spring matches competitive volleyball-wise that I can remember anywhere. Kansas is really good. They’ve got a really nice team, a really nice setter, they pass really well. I was worried if we were going to win tonight. A very competitive match for these fans to see, so that was a great part of it, too.”

Madi Kubik put on a show as Nebraska beat Kansas 26-24, 18-25, 25-16, 25-17. The Huskers out-hit the Jayhawks .180 to .127 and were plus-five at the service line as the Jayhawks committed 13 errors to just eight for Nebraska.

Kayla Caffey did not suit up, but every other Huskers saw the court including all three of the team’s freshmen that enrolled early. Cook said he would like to have Caffey’s situation resolved by Aug. 1, but couldn’t really give a more specific timeline for when he might know for sure if she’s going to play next season.

Kubik finished with 20 kills on .311 hitting, seven digs, three assists, two aces and a block. 

“She’s kind of our rock, and she’s one of the few players in the country who does everything really well,” Cook said. “She won game three for us serving. She made some great digs. She had some huge kills when we needed them. She struggled passing tonight which I did not see coming; she’s a good passer. She’s one of those true six-rotation players that are hard to find.”

Whitney Lauenstein started at opposite hitter and flirted with a double-double, finishing with 12 kills and eight blocks, though she hit just .156 with a team-high seven attack errors.

“Whitney’s a very inexperienced player. I kept telling our setter to set her as much as we can. Obviously she makes big kills. She’s got to learn how to do the little plays and how to use the block a little more. But she’s learning. This is why tonight is such a huge match for her to play in and continue to get experience.” 

Freshman Bekka Allick started next to Callie Schwarzenbach at middle blocker and put up six kills and five blocks. Nicklin Hames started at setter and played most of the match there, finishing with 38 assists and eight digs. Keonilei Akana led the defensive effort with 18 digs while Lexi Rodriguez added 15.

Former Husker Anezka Szabo led Kansas with 12 kills on .455 hitting plus two blocks.

Nebraska fell behind by four in the first set before rallying to tie it at 13-all with a 5-1 run. Kansas surged ahead with three straight points, but the Huskers pulled even again and the teams went back and forth down the stretch.

Nebraska earned set point first, but Kansas fended the Huskers off. Then Lauenstein crushed a kill to give Nebraska another shot and Kubik capitalized with her eighth kill of the first set. She hit .400 but didn’t get much help as Nebraska hit just .143. Szabo led Kansas with seven kills on nine swings in the first set as the Jayhawks hit .146.

Kansas raced out to a 12-4 lead in set two as Kubik cooled off a bit and the Huskers struggled to get anybody else going. The Huskers had four kills and four errors while Kansas had six kills and zero errors at that point. 

Nebraska chipped away at the lead from there, getting it down to three several times, but a 4-0 Kansas run made it 22-15 and slammed the door shut on the comeback and the Jayhawks cruised to the win, tying the match up at 1-1. Kubik, Lauenstein and Schwarzenbach recorded three kills apiece but the Huskers hit just .068 compared to Kansas’ .200.

Ally Batenhorst replaced Lindsay Krause at the L2 spot mid-set as the former hit into the block for her third error.

The third set featured six lead changes before the media timeout, but Nebraska took control with a 5-0 run then closed out the set with six straight points including a pair of aces from Kubik. Kennedi Orr checked in for set point and assisted Batenhorst for the winner. 

Kubik added six more kills to her tally on 12 swings in game three. The Huskers hit .256 and held Kansas to .133. 

“I was really nervous, our team was really nervous,” Cook said. “I’ve never seen them so amped up and acting silly all day today. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ But they were just so excited and so amped up. We have a pretty young team. I know they kept, over there in the timeouts, they kept talking to each other like ‘Calm down, breathe.’ It was a stressful match in that we haven’t been in this environment in a while and it was our first time playing this spring. So they had to adjust to it and then we got a little smoother as the match went on.”

Kansas won four of the first five rallies in set four before Nebraska rallied to tie it up at 7-7. Seven more ties followed until Nebraska scored five straight with Hames at the service line to take a 21-16 lead. Anni Evans checked in for Hames at that point and the Jayhawks ended the Husker run, but Nebraska closed out the match with four straight. 

Freshman Hayden Kubik recorded the match-point kill on her first swing. Fellow freshman Maisie Boesiger also made an appearance as a serving specialist in the fourth set. The Huskers out-hit the Jayhawks .312 to .028.

“I think our group had a lot of fun,” Madi Kubik said. “Just because we’ve been training all spring and we haven’t had an opportunity to play a match. And so I think we were just excited to get out there and showcase what we’ve been doing.”

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