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Kubik Powers No. 2 Cornhuskers to Sweep Over Ole Miss

September 03, 2022

After a smooth first set against Ole Miss on Saturday night, No. 2 Nebraska had to grind out sets two and three to earn their fifth straight sweep to open the season.

The Huskers beat former Husker Kayla Banwarth’s Ole Miss squad 25-13, 25-23, 25-21 to finish 2-0 at the Husker Invitational.

“I thought Ole Miss could have packed it in after game one — that was an ugly game for them — and they came back and competed really well,” Coach John Cook said. “I thought we went on cruise control and we got in some tight matches, which was good for us. We had to work hard to get those wins in those last two games. So, hats off to Ole Miss for how hard they competed and didn’t pack it in. It was some pretty good volleyball there.”

Madi Kubik earned tournament MVP honors after averaging 3.5 kills per set on .455 hitting with just one error on 44 swings in wins over Loyola Marymount and the Rebels.

“I think with the lineup that we’re running right now, there are a lot of people coming in and out of the game, and so I think we have been really focusing on being about each other,” Kubik said. “I think it takes a lot of pressure and headspace off of worrying about play and just being able to trust each other and just try and focus on what’s happening. I think that’s what allowed us to play pretty well this weekend.”

Whitney Lauenstein, Lexi Rodriguez and Kenzie Knuckles joined Kubik on the All-Tournament team alongside Loyola Marymount’s Phoebe Awoleye and Sam Hastings and Ole Miss’ Katie Corelli.

Nebraska ran a 6-2 with Nicklin Hames getting the start for the second straight match, and she led the team with 18 assists and eight digs. Kennedi Orr was the second setter into the match after not playing on Thursday; Cook said she had two great days of practice and he wanted to see what she could do. However, Anni Evans checked in during the third set as well. Nebraska hit .330 for the match while recording just nine attack errors.

“We’re just taking a hard look at it,” Cook said about the two-setter system. “It gets four pretty good pin hitters on the court. We hit .330, against Loyola I think we hit .350. We didn’t hit those numbers last year, I can tell you that.”

Kubik posted a match-high 13 kills on .400 hitting. Lauenstein added nine kills on .350 hitting and six blocks. Lindsay Krause contributed six kills on .267 hitting and Ally Batenhorst chipped in four kills on nine errorless swings (.444 hitting) as all four pins saw playing time once again in the 6-2.

Rodriguez led the defensive effort with nine digs and two aces as Nebraska held Ole Miss to .184 hitting. The Cornhuskers served four aces and nine errors while the Rebels misfired 15 times with just two aces.

Nebraska put a couple of serves into the net early, but the Huskers took an early 8-4 lead with a 6-0 run featuring Allick at the service line then blew the game open as Rodriguez served a 7-0 run for a 19-7 advantage.

Orr served a 4-0 run to stretch the lead to 13 before hitting into the net. However, she bounced back with a quick set to Allick for the kill to give the Huskers set point, and a couple of rallies later Mississippi served long to end it.

Kubik led Nebraska with four kills on seven swings as the Huskers committed just one attack error in the frame and hit .455. Ole Miss hit minus-.032 with eight errors.

After a clean first set, Nebraska got off to a slow start in set two with three attack errors and two service errors in the first 15 rallies as the Rebels jumped ahead 9-6. The Huskers turned the tables and took the lead with a 5-1 run, but the Rebels continued to keep pace,

After Orr recorded two service errors in the first set, Cook had Lauenstein serve for her in the second game and the sophomore opposite notched her first career ace to put the Huskers up 13-11.

Ole Miss rallied with a 5-0 run to take the lead once again at 18-15 and the teams traded runs from there. The Rebels were on the verge of handing the Huskers their first set loss of the season with a 23-21 lead until they served into the net. Lauenstein went back to the line for Nebraska and served three times as the Huskers closed the game on a 4-0 run.

“We know how she can serve,” Kubik said. “She aces us in practice every single day; we’re like ‘Why is Whitney serving?’ So I think we were just really excited for her to get that opportunity to go back there. She went back there and really trusted herself and trusted that she could go back and thump a serve and get them out of system. So that was just a really awesome opportunity for her.”

Kubik scored the final two kills. The Huskers’ preseason All-Big Ten pin added eight of them to her tally in the second set, giving her 12 on 21 errorless swings. Lauenstein added four kills on eight swings in addition to her work from the service line. Nebraska narrowly out-hit Ole Miss, .297 to .278.

The third set featured 16 ties as the Huskers struggled to string together stops and terminations. Nebraska fell behind 2-0 out of the gates, then 8-5 soon after. At that point, Cook subbed Evans in for Orr to set, and she immediately set up fellow Waverly graduate Allick for a kill. That sparked a 4-0 run to give the Huskers the lead, but they couldn’t maintain it.

“[Orr] was missing too many sets,” Cook said about the setter change. “Setters can’t miss sets. Our hitters have a hard enough time killing the ball; our setters have to put them in a good position. She was starting to miss some set, so I felt like I needed a change.”

The lead exchanged hands four times, then the teams traded six straight sideouts before the Huskers broke the streak with a block from Lauenstein and Kaitlyn Hord and a kill from Kubik to take a 22-19 lead. The Rebels notched a kill before recording their 15th service error of the night, then Rodriguez followed it with an ace to give the Huskers match point. Allick terminated on Nebraska’s second attempt to complete the sweep.

Nebraska earned a narrow advantage in hitting once again, .286 to .278. Allick converted all four or her third-set swings into kills.

“I think it was more just we weren’t bringing the same intensity as we did in that first match, and so it allowed them more opportunities to score,” Rodriguez said of the last two sets. “I don’t think we necessarily were doing anything different or struggling in any certain area. I just think we needed to play a little bit how we did in those tighter moments more throughout the game.”

Up next for Nebraska is its first ranked opponent of the season as the Huskers head to Omaha for a mid-week match against No. 17 Creighton at CHI Health Center Omaha.

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