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No. 2 Nebraska Bounces Back with Sweep at No. 13 Kentucky

September 18, 2022

No. 2 Nebraska bounced back from its first loss of the season to sweep No. 13 Kentucky in Lexington on Sunday afternoon.

The Huskers saw their routine disrupted as mechanical issues delayed their flight on Saturday, but they didn’t show it on the court as Nebraska won a deuce game early then dominated the last two sets for a 27-25, 25-20, 25-16 victory.

Nebraska was without setter Nicklin Hames and outside hitter Ally Batenhorst. Coach John Cook stuck with the 6-2 and gave Kennedi Orr the start, and the sophomore teamed up with Anni Evans to guide the Huskers to a .302 hitting percentage. Orr had 20 assists and four digs while Evans added 16 assists and five digs.

Whitney Lauenstein led the way with 11 kills on .370 hitting, bouncing back from a career-high eight attack errors to misfire just one time against the Wildcats. She added three blocks and two aces to her stat line.

“That last game that we played at home against Stanford, we made so many errors,” Lauenstein said during a post-match interview on ESPN2. “And so I think this match was like, ‘Let’s play together and just play fearless. Just go for everything. We’re on the road.’”

Madi Kubik fell just short of a double-double with nine kills, nine digs and two aces. Lindsay Krause also finished with nine kills on .304 hitting.

Bekka Allick did a bit of everything with five kills on .625 hitting, six blocks and four digs while fellow middle blocker Kaitlyn Hord added five kills on .333 hitting and four blocks.

Lexi Rodriguez led the defensive effort with 15 digs as Nebraska held Kentucky to a season-low .141 hitting. The Huskers out-blocked the Wildcats 10-3.

“Our defense, the way you get to those teams that are used to killing a lot of balls, if they can’t kill balls, they start pressing …” Cook said during his post-match radio interview. “So I’ve got to give a lot of credit to our players and Jaylen [Reyes] for our defensive game plan and then executing, and they did it for however long this match lasted. The whole match, they we were on it.”

The teams battled back and forth throughout the first set with 11 ties in the first 34 rallies. Nebraska led 1-0 and 2-1 as Lauenstein terminated on her first two swings, but Kentucky pulled ahead from there and led much of the set.

The Wildcats created a bit of separation late with a 4-0 run that gave them a 21-17 lead. A service error ended the run, but Kentucky earned the sideout with a kill to make it 22-18. At that point, Kentucky held a 16-8 edge in kills.

Another Kentucky service error and a Lauenstein ace sparked a 6-1 run to give the Huskers set point at 24-23. Kubik missed long on her serve to tie it up and Kentucky notched. Block to pull ahead, but the Huskers responded with kills from Krause and Maggie Mendelson to earn set point again and Azhani Tealer hit wide to give the Huskers the game.

Nebraska recorded the last six kills of the set to up its percentage to .270. Krause had three kills in the last eight rallies and led the Huskers with four total on nine errorless swings. Nebraska held Kentucky to .173 with seven errors.

“We lost two deuce games to Stanford, and they’ve heard about it all week,” Cook said on ESPN2. “And winning that close game, I think, just gave them a major shot of confidence. And I think we just rolled from there and wore Kentucky down.”

Nebraska used a 3-0 run early in set two to pull ahead 5-2, but the Wildcats rallied to tie it at 9-9. The Huskers scored the next two points, but the Wildcats made another push to take the lead at 16-15 with a 3-0 run.

Nebraska used a timeout to regroup, then hit the Wildcats with a big run. The Huskers traded sideouts then ran off five straight points with Kenzie Knuckles serving to take a 22-17 lead. Kentucky finally ended the run with a kill, but the Huskers responded with kills from Lauenstein and Allick to earn set point. Kentucky saved two set points, but the Huskers closed it out on their third try with a big swing from Lauenstein.

Nebraska out-hit Kentucky .275 to .081. Kubik came alive after a rough first set with five kills on 10 swings while Lauenstein added four kills on 10 attempts. Nebraska recorded four blocks in the second set.

Kentucky scored the first point of the third set, but the Huskers responded with five straight sparked by a front-row kill from Knuckles. Nebraska continued to roll, stretch the lead to seven at 11-4 with a 6-1 run as Kubik crushed a ball to end an extended rally. 

Kentucky scored a kill, but the Huskers responded with a kill from Mendelson then back-to-back aces from Kubik to make it 14-5. The Huskers rolled the rest of the way with the lead peaking at 23-12. Kentucky extended the match for a few more rallies, but the Lexington native closed it out as Hord dropped in a tip for a kill on Nebraska’s third match point.

Nebraska hit .302 in the third set as Lauenstein tacked on four more kills on eight swings. The Huskers held the Wildcats to .154 hitting.

The Huskers finish the nonconference at 8-1 overall and will now head into 10 weeks of Big Ten play starting with a pair of home matches on Friday and Saturday.

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