For the second time in a week, No. 5 Nebraska has dropped a five-set match on the road to a top-10 opponent. On Friday, that opponent was Wisconsin (13-4, 6-3) who took the final two sets to hand the Huskers (15-4, 6-3) their third loss in four matches.
Scores in Wisconsin’s favor in front of a packed house of 7,052 were 25-20, 19-25, 17-25, 25-17, 15-8.
Nebraska’s nation-leading defense was strong once again, holding the Badgers to .114 hitting, but the offense let it down as the Huskers posted the lowest hitting percentage of the John Cook era at Nebraska at .087.
Senior outside hitter Mikaela Foecke posted a double-double with 15 kills and 14 digs, and while she only committed three attack errors in five sets it also took her 59 swings to get those 15 kills (.203 hitting). The hitting percentages fell off a cliff for the rest of Nebraska’s hitter.
Sophomore right side hitter Jazz Sweet had 11 errors and only recorded six kills (-.167 hitting). Sophomore outside hitter Lexi Sun had 10 kills and 13 digs but she also committed 10 errors. Nebraska’s middles, sophomore Lauren Stivrins and freshman Callie Schwarzenbach, got 33 swings but only produced nine kills with five errors.
No matter what Nebraska tried offensively it didn’t work as the Badgers recorded highlight-reel dig after highlight-reel dig all night long, finishing with 94 of them compared to 77 for Nebraska.
Freshman setter Nicklin Hames had 28 assists, 17 digs, four blocks and three kills. Senior libber Kenzie Maloney finished with 20 digs, nine assists and two kills on two swings.
Wisconsin got off to a strong start with a 3-0 run to open the match then another one to pull ahead 7-3, drawing an early timeout from Nebraska. Wisconsin spent the rest of the set in the driver’s seat as Nebraska never managed to pull level with the Badgers.
The Badgers led by as much as five but four different times the Huskers pulled within two, and every time they followed up with a service error. Nebraska finally got over the hump and cut its deficit to one at 20-19, drawing a timeout from Wisconsin.
After regrouping, the Badgers returned to the court and ripped off three straight, drawing Nebraska’s second timeout. The Huskers scored after the break but the Badgers closed it out from there with the last two points of the set.
Wisconsin racked up 32 digs in the first set alone and recorded three blocks, holding the Huskers to .125 hitting. The Huskers misfired from the service line seven times and did not record a single ace.
Wisconsin scored the first two points of the second set but Nebraska countered with three straight. The Huskers finally recorded their first service ace of the match during a 5-0 run that gave Nebraska an 11-8 lead.
Wisconsin countered with what appeared to be a 4-0 run but a challenge by John Cook proved successful, overturning a call to make it 13-13 and Nebraska blocked the slide by Wisconsin on the next point and got a kill from Foecke for a 15-13 lead.
After going back and forth for a couple of rallies Nebraska took control with a 4-0 run for a 20-15 lead. Cook went to the challenge well again and was again rewarded as the review changed a serve called long into an ace for Hayley Densberger and the sophomore followed it up with a no-question ace on her next serve. Sun put down a kill to give Nebraska set point. After a couple of points by Wisconsin Nebraska finished it off with a kill by Stivrins on the slide.
Nebraska recorded five blocks int he second set and held the Badgers to .059 hitting. After committing seven service error without an ace in the firsts et, Nebraska flipped that in the second with four aces and just one error.
Wisconsin struck first again in the third set, but Nebraska fired back with a 3-0 run for an 8-7 lead. Nebraska countered with three straight of its own starting with back-to-back blocks. Nebraska pulled ahead once again with a 6-1 run but Minnesota tied it up at 14-all with three straight.
Wisconsin pulled ahead 16-15 but the rest of the set was all Nebraska. The Huskers dominated the rest of the way with a 10-1 run to seal the match and take a 2-1 lead.
Nebraska won by eight with just nine kills thanks to 13 attack errors by the Badgers. Nebraska held Wisconsin to -.116 hitting.
The teams battled back and forth early in set four but Wisconsin took control with a 6-1 run for a 15-9 lead, then stretched that advantage out to eight at 20-12. After a timeout, Nebraska tried to mount a comeback with three straight but the Badgers quickly put an end to that, closing the set on a 5-3 run to extend the match to a fifth set.
Wisconsin out-hit Nebraska .242 to .000 in the fourth, limiting the Huskers to just six kills.
The fifth set was a game of short runs. Wisconsin opened with three straight and Nebraska fired back with three in a row. After alternating points, Wisconsin ripped off another 3-0 run to take a 7-4 lead. Nebraska pulled within one at 7-6 but Wisconsin dominated the rest of the way, closing the match on an 8-2 run.
Nebraska’s schedule doesn’t let up in the slightest as the Huskers are headed to Minneapolis to take on No. 3 Minnesota (15-2, 9-0) on Saturday night. The first-place Golden Gophers started Nebraska’s recent slide with a four-set win in Lincoln on Oct. 6. First serve on BTN is set for 7 p.m.
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.