If you were to tell Nebraska coach John Cook that his team would sweep UCLA in consecutive matches, he would have never believed it.
No. 12 Nebraska (5-2) did just that after winning 25-15, 25-19, 25-17 against No. 11 UCLA (5-2) Saturday night at Devaney Center.
“Not only did we play well last night, I thought we took it up another notch tonight,” Cook said. “UCLA played better tonight, so really good job by our team.”
The last time Nebraska swept two ranked opponents in consecutive matches was November 2015. The Huskers defeated then ranked No. 18 Illinois and No. 5 Penn State. Both matches were also played at the Devaney Center.
A key factor in the Huskers success against the Bruins this weekend was senior setter Kelly Hunter. Hunter, who missed the first two games of the season rehabbing from an offseason injury, played all of both matches this weekend.
Cook said he was concerned about Hunter’s conditioning going into Saturday’s match, but Hunter wasn’t fazed.
“She said she felt fine,” Cook said. “She’d probably tell me that no matter what.”
Hunter finished Saturday’s match with 31 set assists and a match high 14 digs.
“It was good to get back out there with the team,” Hunter said. “Playing all-around gets you in a better grove. I think any setter would say not coming out of the game kind of helps a little bit.
“We played great and had so much energy and fun. So I feel great and the team feels great.”
The Huskers controlled the first set taking an early 4-0 lead to start the match Saturday night.
The second set was much closer to start, with three lead changes and eight ties, but Nebraska pulled away midway through with a 6-0 run.
Nebraska finished off the match with a comfortable lead in the third set. UCLA called two timeouts in a final attempt to slow down the Huskers.
Cook said his team didn’t make many adjustments Saturday. The strategy paid off.
In the combined six sets played between both nights, UCLA never hit over .150. Its highest mark was the third set Saturday, in which it hit .136.
Cook said Nebraska’s passing and serving fueled its floor defense.
“They had a hard time getting balls down on us tonight,” Cook said. “We dug some really tough shots. I saw some balls dug I’ve never seen dug before from out team, even in practice.”
Cook said he believes Nebraska’s floor defense frustrated UCLA.
As for the Huskers offense, they never hit below .200.
Junior outside hitter Mikaela Foecke led the Huskers in kills again Saturday with 12.
After hitting .250 Friday night, freshman outside hitter Jazz Sweet had a hitting percentage of .529 Saturday.
Sweet faced several double teams, but still managed to get the ball through.
“We practice it all the time,” Sweet said. “It’s just trusting your training, so when we go into the games, sometimes you don’t think about it. You just do it.”
Six of Sweet’s 10 kills on the night came in the third set. Cook said he made an adjustment that allowed Sweet to get more one-on-one matchups.
Nebraska is set to play in the Omaha Challenge Friday and Saturday in Omaha. Other schools competing include Kansas State, Northern Iowa and Omaha.