After showing some first-match jitters in a season-opening four-set win over No. 18 Creighton on Friday night, No. 2 Nebraska dominated UCLA from start to finish on Saturday night to finish 2-0 in the Husker Invitational at the Devaney Center.
Nebraska fell behind 1-0 to start the night and never trailed again as the Huskers hit .320 in a 25-12, 25-16, 25-19 sweep over the Bruins in front of 8,237 fans. The Huskers held UCLA to .114 and out-dig the Bruins 54 to 42.
“I told the team I was really pleased with how they rebounded tonight,” Coach John Cook said. “We played how I’ve been seeing and watching in practicing. I thought our focus was good. We played clean volleyball, we were aggressive and we played great defense. Really good effort by the Huskers tonight and I’m really pleased with how they rebounded from last night because last night didn’t feel good even though we won.”
Junior middle blocker Lauren Stivrins and freshman libero Kenzie Knuckles were both named to the Husker Invitational All-Tournament team.
Stivrins put up 7 kills on .357 hitting with an ace and a block against the Bruins. She averaged 2.28 kills per set on .433 hitting in the two matches.
Knuckles recorded 19 digs on Saturday, giving her 41 total in two matches for an average of 5.86 digs per set. She added 10 assists and an ace to her weekend stat line.
“It’s really exciting,” Knuckles said. “My goal was to go out there and just prove myself and have fun with my teammates and work with my teammates, and feeling like I did that is really exciting.”
Baylor outside hitter Yossiana Pressley was named MVP of the tournament and was joined on the all-tournament by fellow Bears Shelly Stafford, a middle blocker, and Hannah Lockin, a setter. Creighton libero Brittany Witt and UCLA outside hitter Mac May rounded out the team.
Junior outside hitter Lexi Sun led the Huskers with 12 kills on .321 hitting and added seven digs. For the second straight match, Capri Davis checked in off the bench and was second on the team in kills, this time finishing with nine on .381 hitting. Junior opposite hitter Jazz Sweet chipped in seven kills on .412 hitting. Sophomore setter Nicklin Hames had a match-high 32 assists and added six digs. Sophomore defensive specialist Megan Miller had a great night from the service line, putting down four aces with just one error and keying a few different Nebraska runs.
May led the Bruins with 12 of her team’s 26 kills, hitting .226 and adding nine digs.
Nebraska dominated most of the first set, racing out to a 13-5 lead with a 100% sideout rate through the first 18 points. UCLA recovered enough t score four straight and cut its deficit to four at 13-9 but Nebraska righted the ship and the rest of the set was smooth sailing as the Huskers ripped off a 12-3 run to end it.
Miller served tough on set point and UCLA had to send a free ball over to the Huskers’ side. Davis — playing in a rotation with Kubik for the second straight match — had the winning kill in system.
Nebraska out-hit UCLA .324 to .056 and finished with a sideout percentage of 75. Stivrins and Sun led the Huskers with four kills apiece in the set while Maloney notched eight digs, helping limit the Bruins to six kills in the set.
The domination continued into the second set as the Huskers raced out to a 10-2 start, leading to a change in setter by the Bruins as Devon Chang replaced Hawley Harrer. The change didn’t make much of a difference, however. Nebraska took its first double-digit lead at 13-3, then pushed it to 12 at 21-9 thanks to a 5-1 run.
UCLA scored four straight to cut its deficit to eight but Nebraska regrouped with a timeout and scored the next three points. Kubik gave the Huskers set point with a back-row tip that landed right in the middle of the UCLA defense as four Bruins hit the deck trying to get underneath it, but to no avail. UCLA saved three set points before hitting wide to give the Huskers a 2-0 lead at the intermission.
Nebraska hit .267 with just three attack errors while holding UCLA to .103. Davis had five kills on in swings in the frame.
Nebraska took control early in the third set as well with an 8-4 lead but this time the Bruins fired back with a 4-0 run to tie it up. After a timeout, Nebraska ripped off a 5-1 run to regain control. The teams traded 3-0 runs followed by four straight sideouts as UCLA hung around at 18-16, but Nebraska delivered the knockout blow with a 5-0 run.
After a UCLA kill, Hames found Stivrins on the slide to create set point. The Bruins held off the sweep for a couple of points before Sun finished them off with her 12th kill. The Huskers hit .343 in the third set with Sun recording half of her kills in the frame.
Earlier in the afternoon, No. 20 Baylor swept No. 18 Creighton 25-20, 25-20, 25-20 to finish 2-0 in the tournament with a pair of sweeps.
“We know some things we’ve got to work on,” Cook said. “We’ll prepare for the two teams we’re playing. Mainly, we can teach from this weekend — OK, remember this situation, remember this situation, this is who we’ve got to handle it. Mac May has a really good serve, the setter for Creighton has a really good serve, so it took us a while to adjust on how to pass those balls. Those are the kinds of things we’ll be working on and teaching this week, and then trying to continue to get better.”
Next up for the Huskers is a west-coast road trip as Nebraska will travel to California for the USD Invitational in San Diego. The Huskers will face Arizona on Friday and San Diego on 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.