No. 1 Nebraska bounced back from its mid-week loss to Wisconsin to make short work of Maryland on Saturday night, holding the Terrapins to .000 hitting in a sweep.
The Cornhuskers (19-2, 11-1 Big Ten) beat the Terrapins (13-11, 4-8) 25-16, 25-9, 25-19 at the Devaney Center on Saturday after beating Maryland 3-1 in College Park earlier in the season.
“I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous tonight about how we would come out tonight,” Coach John Cook said. “We just seem really flat today at our serve pass, so I challenged the leaders afterward like ‘You’ve got to make sure these guys are ready to play,’ and that they came out with a great sense of urgency tonight and we were really sharp and just kind of really deflated Maryland I think, especially when we started blocking them. They’re leading the conference in blocking but sometimes when you do something really well and somebody does it back to you, it can deflate you pretty fast.”
Nebraska out-blocked the top blocking team in the country 12 to five with Kaitlyn Hord (nine block assists) and Whitney Lauenstein (eight) leading the way. The Huskers hit .263 after the Terrapins recorded 17 blocks in their first meeting.
“I think we passed great and then our attackers were just taking really smart swings, even out of system,” Nicklin Hames said. “They have a big block … That that’s all credit to our hitters and just being smart in those situations and then taking rips when they had a chance.”
After losing the serve and pass game decisively against Wisconsin, Nebraska didn’t give up an ace against the Big Ten’s leader in ace average while serving up six aces to just five errors on their end. Lexi Rodriguez and Madi Kubik had two aces apiece for the Huskers while Maryland finished with six service errors.
“Our passers just did a great job,” Hames said. “A lot of communication and they were fighting up those serves. They were tough serves. I was watching them move where they were going back there and thinking ‘Thank goodness I’m not back there passing those balls.’ But they did a fantastic job fighting up those tough serves and really keeping our team in system and I think it shows in the numbers of just how many different people had kills tonight.”
None of Nebraska’s six main attackers reached 20 sets as the setter duo of Nicklin Hames and Anni Evans spread the ball around to everyone. Lindsay Krause (.462 hitting), Bekka Allick (.385) and Lauenstein (.222) led Nebraska with seven kills apiece while Kubik, Ally Batenhorst and Hord chipped in five kills each. Hames posted a match-high 17 assists while Anni Evans added 13 off the bench.
“That’s great,” Hames said. “That means we’re spreading around the ball and everyone was taking care of business tonight. It was super easy to run our offense because everyone was terminating and we really got the middles involved, which I think opened up a lot of things.”
Hames and Lauenstein set the tone on the opening point as the senior induced an overpass that the sophomore slammed home for a kill. Nebraska won six of the first eight rallies to take a lead before the teams traded points for a while.
Nebraska gradually stretched out its lead as the set went on, aided by a plethora of Maryland errors. It reached eight at 19-11 before Nebraska committed its first error of any kind, an errant attack. Between serves and swings, Maryland had contributed 12 points to Nebraska’s total at that point.
The Huskers caught the error bug as well after the clean start, allowing the Terrapins to cut the deficit down to five at 21-16, but Nebraska closed out the set with a 4-0 run.
The Huskers hit .219 thanks to four late errors but held Maryland to .050 with five service errors. Six of the Terrapin attack errors were Nebraska blocks as the Huskers gave the Terps a taste of their own medicine.
Maryland opened the second set with three straight attack errors before winning three of the next four rallies to make it a one-point game.
It was all Nebraska after that, however, as the Huskers ripped off a 15-2 run including eight straight with Kubik serving. The senior had two aces during the run as Nebraska jumped out to a 19-5 lead. The Huskers cruised the rest of the way from there as Hord put the finishing touches on the win with a game-point kill.
“I know how they felt because this is how we felt Wednesday night,” Cook said. “When you can’t pass serves, it’s really hard to kill a ball against a great defensive team. We’re a great defensive team and if you’re not passing, it just makes it even harder. So they couldn’t run much middle and it’s a frustrating thing. So our serving was really, really, really causing a lot of problems for them.”
Nebraska hit .440 and held Maryland to minus-.083 with eight more errors. Allick terminated all four of the sets that came her way and Hord added three kills as Nebraska got the ball to the middles plenty in game two.
Nebraska used a 5-0 run featuring Kenzie Knuckles at the service line to jump in front 6-1 early in set three. They pushed the lead out to eight at 12-4 with a 5-1 run featuring kills from four different Huskers including Maggie Mendelson. Cook sent the freshman in at opposite hitter and slid Krause back to the left in Batenhorst’s spot midway through the set.
Maryland wasn’t ready to call it a night, however, as the Terrapins gradually cut Nebraska’s lead all the way down to one at 18-17. Cook called a timeout to regroup and Allick, the back-to-back Big Ten Freshman of the Week, stepped up with a pair of kills to push the lead back to three and the Huskers closed it out from there as Hames capped a 3-0 run with a match-point ace.
“I should have called timeout earlier, but I wanted to let them work through it and see if they could,” Cook said. “We’ve talked about not giving up big runs and kind of made four plays in a row and I also kind of wanted to get the crowd back into it. So get we got close and then we regrouped and and finished out really strong.”
Nebraska hit .184 in the third behind four kills on seven swings from Krause. Maryland hit .000 as Nebraska recorded four more blocks.
Up next for the Huskers is their third straight week with a Wednesday match as Indiana visits the Devaney Center for its first meeting with the Huskers this season.
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.