Nebraska changed up its lineup once again on Saturday, but the results were the same as the Huskers improved to 7-0 with a sweep over Long Beach State.
The Huskers took down the Beach 25-16, 25-22, 25-14 while hitting .283 behind another big match from Whitney Lauenstein.
Outside hitter Ally Batenhorst did not suit up after leaving Wednesday’s match with abdominal soreness, and Coach John Cook changed up his lineup within the 6-2 by sliding Lindsay Krause over to outside hitter and inserting freshman middle blocker Maggie Mendelson at opposite hitter behind Lauenstein.
“I just felt like by moving Lindsay back to the left — that’s really where we want to play her — so I wanted to see how this would look with Maggie because it does create some matchup problems for other teams,” Cook said. “That’s a big block over there you’ve got to deal with all night. So I just wanted to see what we could do with that.”
The Devaney Center welcomed former assistant coach Tyler Hildebrand and middle blocker Callie Schwarzenbach back to Lincoln with loud ovations during the team introductions. The players shared a group hug with Hildebrand after the match as well before taking a photo with both Hildebrand and Schwarzenbach.
“I talked to the team after the match about it was a really good win, we played some good volleyball today, the crowd got their money’s worth, really impressed with Long Beach, but this match had a lot more meaning to it,” Cook said. “One of the reasons you play sports is about building relationships and we have some very strong relationships with Long Beach. Tyler, Callie and then also Zayna Meyer who actually came to Dream Team camp when Lexi Rodriguez committed and we weren’t recruiting a setter at that time …
“Sometimes there’s more to sports than just winning and losing. It’s about the relationships that you build, and this was a special match and our crowd was really into it and just how they treat Callie and Tyler with the introductions and everything. It’s very meaningful and I wanted our players to understand that. So that’s that was our talk after the match. Several of them were in tears before the match, they were in tears after the match because of the relationships they have with Tyler and Callie specifically.”
Lauenstein led everyone with 12 kills on .381 hitting and four blocks. Madi Kubik added eight kills on .333 hitting, surpassing 1,000 career kills in the process.
Nebraska received good production from its middle blockers as well with Bekka Allick notching eight kills on .308 hitting and three blocks and Kaitlyn Hord chipping in four kills on .333 hitting and four blocks. Setters Nicklin Hames and Anni Evans combined for 32 assists and 15 digs.
Lexi Rodriguez led the defensive effort with 15 digs as Nebraska held Long Beach State to .078 hitting. Schwarzenbach got the start for the Beach and contributed three blocks.
“Long Beach is a fun team to play,” Cook said. “They go fast, they get after it, they fly around, they cover really well. So we can learn some things from this match. I just thought our size wore them down a little bit and our serving got to them a little bit and our defense, they’re probably not used to being dug like that. Evan Anni Evans was making incredible digs tonight, so that was fun to watch.”
Mendelson struggled early with two errors in her first five swings, but she settled in from there and played error free with four kills the rest of the way with three digs and two blocks.
“I think she did awesome,” Lauenstein said. “I feel like she’s just such a versatile player. She just knows how to play wherever. Coach literally looked at her and was like ‘You’re playing right side,’ and she’s like ‘OK.’ So I think the mental and physical were just spot on.”
Nebraska got off to a slow start with six attack and two service errors in the first 24 rallies. The first half of the set included seven ties and four lead changes before Nebraska pulled ahead for good with a kill from Krause and a Beach ball-handling error.
The Huskers won 10 of the last 12 rallies including a 7-0 run featuring Evans at the service line. Evans finally misfired to end the run, but Allick closed it out with a kill on the slide on the next point.
Lauenstein led the Huskers with four kills on seven swings as they hit .323 as a team. Nebraska got strong production from the middles with six kills on seven attempts between Allick and Hord. The Huskers held Long Beach State to .036 hitting.
The second set followed a similar script to the first, with the teams going back and forth early. After nine ties and three lead changes, the Huskers pulled ahead with a 4-0 run, taking a 14-10 advantage.
The Beach managed to halt Nebraska’s momentum this time before the Huskers ran away with the set, however, responding with a 4-1 run including a solo stuff from Schwarzenbach to cut the deficit to two at 17-15. Three straight Nebraska kills (two by Lauenstein, one by Krause) gave the Huskers a bit of breathing room at 21-16 and the Huskers held on from there. Kubik delivered the final kill after the Beach had saved two set points, giving her 1,000 for her career.
Long Beach State out-hit Nebraska .222 to .205 in the set but the Huskers had the advantage in service points thanks to four Beach errors and an ace from Kubik, Nebraska’s first since the Ole Miss match. Lauenstein added seven more kills to her tally.
The Huskers flipped the script in set three, taking control right from the start with a 3-0 run. That included an out-of-system kill from Kenzie Knuckles after a difficult dig from Rodriguez and a diving second touch from Lauenstein.
“I think it really set the tone for that third set, like we’re here to get stuff done,” Lauenstein said. “We’re playing with our heart and that’s something else that we really need to do too.”
Nebraska drew both of the Beach’s timeouts in the first 20 rallies while taking a 14-6 lead and cruised through the rest of the set. Nebraska out-hit Long Beach State .345 to minus-.026 thanks in part to five blocks.
The Huskers have one more home nonconference match remaining as they will host No. 11 Sanford on Tuesday before hitting the road to face No. 14 Kentucky next weekend.
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.