LINCOLN, Neb. – The No.1 Nebraska volleyball team began the stretch run in the Big Ten with a Wednesday night sweep over Iowa at the Devaney Center in front of a crowd of 8,262.
The Huskers (23-1, 14-1) beat the Hawkeyes (18-9, 8-7) 25-14, 25-18, 26-24, although Coach John Cook wasn’t completely satisfied with the performance.
“It’s a 3-0 win; we’ll take it,” Cook said. “It wasn’t our best effort. I still think we’re a little jet-lagged from the trip [to Penn State and Rutgers over the weekend] and this is the first time we’ve played on a Wednesday since September so I just thought we were a little flat tonight and Iowa competed really well tonight. They’re a good team; that’s why they’re in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten right now. We’re going to have our hands full next week when we go there.”
Nebraska used a 7-2 run to pull away in the first set and cruised to the 11-point victory. The Huskers shot a blistering .467 and committed just two attack errors in the first set. Nebraska’s defense took over in the second set as the Huskers recorded four blocks and held Iowa to -.022 hitting, but eight attack and two service errors allowed the Hawkeyes to hang around. A 7-0 Huskers run midway through the set made the difference.
Iowa led for much of the third set, but the Huskers seemed to take control with a 10-2 run to give them a 17-13 lead. However, the Hawkeyes battled back to tie the game at 22-22, 23-23 and 24-24. However, a bad serve by Iowa and a kill by Andie Malloy sealed the sweep.
“I feel like that’s what the Big Ten is all about,” Holman said about weathering the comeback attempt. “Every night you have to come out and compete. We practice situations like that in practice so it didn’t feel any different because we’ve done a good job of preparing for stuff like that.”
Cook wasn’t happy about the Huskers allowing the Hawkeyes to force the set to extra points.
“We did a couple nice things, but we didn’t execute on a couple plays like we should have,” Cook said. “I don’t think it should have even gotten to deuce game. But we’re at home and we found a way to win it.”
The Huskers’ middle blockers led the way as Holman finished with a game-high 12 kills on .409 hitting with four blocks and Amber Rolfzen chipped in nine kills and no errors on 14 swings (.643 hitting) with five digs.
“I thought they both did a nice job,” Cook said. “Bri made a lot of plays at the net, which is good and she takes advantage of her athletic ability. But I thought Amber was really solid tonight and everything that she did attacking-wise and even when she didn’t get a good set she did something with it and I just thought she was really solid. Bri was just up there battling.”
Mikaela Foecke and Kadie Rolfzen added eight kills apiece while Rolfzen chipped in a team-best 14 digs. Libero Justine Wong-Orantes added 12 digs and two aces to just one service error. Nebraska out-hit Iowa .284 to .108.
There are five matches left in the regular season and Cook doesn’t want to see his team rest on its laurels as they get ready for postseason play.
“It’s just little plays here and there where we don’t better the ball, we don’t get our block in the right spot, we make poor decision setting, we don’t get off the night and drive; it’s just little fundamental things and I’ve got a thing on our white board talking about that and I talk to them about it every day and they’ve got to continue to work hard on getting better in those areas,” Cook said. “It’s hard to do this time of year but the great teams do it and the great players do it.”
The Huskers will hit the road again this weekend to take on Indiana on Saturday at 6 p.m. and they’ll see the Hawkeyes again the following Saturday.
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.