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No. 2 Huskers Turn Up the Heat in Sweep a Rutgers
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

No. 2 Huskers Turn Up the Heat in Sweep a Rutgers

October 03, 2019

“It’s hot.”

That was Coach John Cook’s first thought during his post-game radio appearance following No. 2 Nebraska’s 25-16, 25-15, 25-14 sweep at Rutgers on Wednesday night. 

For the second time in six days, the Huskers had to play in an arena without air conditioning, but the temperature wasn’t the only thing that was blistering as the Huskers hit a season-high .468 inside College Avenue Gym in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Junior outside hitter Lexi Sun was the primary source of the heat wave for Nebraska with 12 kills on 15 swings for a career-high .800 hitting percentage. Freshman outside hitter Madi Kubik also set a new career high in hitting at .316 with nine kills. Cook said sophomore setter Nicklin Hames was putting her hitters in good spots all night and those hitters capitalized with good swings.

Sophomore middle blocker Callie Schwarzenbach added seven kills on nine swings (season-high .778 hitting). Hames had 34 assists and a match-high seven digs.

The Scarlet Knights were red-hot to start the match as well, hitting .308 in the first set, but Nebraska’s defense settled in and held them to 19 kills and 18 errors in the final two games (.019 hitting).

After striking first with a kill by Kubik, Rutgers scored three straight including two errors by Nebraska to take an early lead. A 3-0 run featuring a kill by Kubik and two by Sun tied it up at 4-4. After 10 straight sideouts, Nebraska created some separation with a 3-0 run, making it 12-9 Huskers. Nebraska terminated on 10 of its first 12 swings.

Another 3-0 Nebraska run capped by an ace from junior middle blocker Lauren Stivrins gave the Huskers their biggest lead yet at 16-11. Nebraska expanded the lead to 21-13 with a 4-0 run including three kills by junior opposite hitter Jazz Sweet. Rutgers responded with a 3-0 run, drawing Nebraska’s first timeout, but the Scarlet Knights served into the net when play resumed, sparking a 4-0 run to end the set.

Nebraska hit .615 with 19 kills and just three attack errors. The Scarlet Knights hit .308 themselves, misfiring just twice but only recording 10 kills. Kubik, Sun and Sweet had four kills apiece while the two middles, Stivrins and Schwarzenbach, each went three-for-three on swings.

Freshman libero Kenzie Knuckles served a 4-0 run early in the second set to give Nebraska a 7-3 lead. That advantage bounced between two and four points until a 7-1 run put Nebraska ahead 19-11, and the Huskers cruised from there. 

Nebraska closed the set on a 3-0 run that included the double-substitution Cook uses to get more blocking up front with Anezka Szabo and allows freshman setter Nicole Drewnick to see the court. Szabo recorded a block to establish set point and Drewnick followed it up with a good serve that induced a bad set by Rutgers.

Nebraska hit .400 in the second set and held Rutgers to zeros with 10 kills and 10 errors. The Huskers played another clean set with just two attack errors. At the intermission, Kubik and Sun led the way with seven kills apiece while the middles combined for nine kills on 12 swings without an error.

After six ties to open the third set, Rutgers took its first lead at 7-6. Nebraska responded with a 4-0 run served by Stivrins. Nebraska blew the game wide open with a 5-0 run served by Knuckles that made it 17-10 and scored seven of the final 11 points

Nebraska out-hit Rutgers .385 to .077 in the third set. Sun had five kills on seven swings.

After three straight road matches to open conference play, Nebraska will return home to host No. 13 Wisconsin on Saturday. First serve is set for 7 p.m. on BTN.

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