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No. 3 Huskers Earn ‘Most Satisfying Win of the Year’ at No. 24 Michigan

October 08, 2022

No. 3 Nebraska swept No. 24 Michigan on Saturday night to improve to 6-0 in Big Ten play and claim sole possession of first place in the conference standings.

The Huskers (14-1) took down the Wolverines (12-4, 3-3 Big Ten) in Ann Arbor 25-14, 26-24, 25-19, holding the Big Ten’s top offense nearly 100 points below its hitting average.

Coach John Cook had to make another lineup change after learning that freshman Bekka Allick was under the weather and would not be able to play. Fellow freshman Maggie Mendelson slid back to middle blocker in Allick’s place, Lindsay Krause moved back to opposite hitter and Ally Batenhorst joined the rotation at outside hitter.

“We found out today Bekka couldn’t play, so we we had about 10 minutes to work on our rotations by flipping Maggie back in the middle,” Cook said during his post-match radio interview. “And so I just told them, ‘Here’s your chance tonight; you’re going to have to really pick up Maggie and Lindsay had to flip positions and Ally was coming in starting the match and it’s a little different, but you guys just have to play together and work together and make this thing work,’ and they did it at a really high level. 

“This is at the end of another long road trip, so for me, personally, this is the most satisfying win of the year so far just because we’ve been on the road for eight out of the last 10 days. It seems like we’ve been gone for a month, and I thought our team handled everything and came in and gave a great effort today. So I’m really, really pleased with them. I almost think about taking Monday off, but I don’t think we will.”

Despite the lineup shuffle, Nebraska didn’t miss a beat as the Huskers hit .300 led by Madi Kubik’s 15 kills on .519 hitting. Whitney Lauenstein added 10 kills on .240 hitting and six blocks. Batenhorst finished with seven kills on .227 hitting in her most extensive playing time since suffering the abdominal injury that sideline her for a couple weeks. Krause added six kills on .353 hitting on the right.

Kennedi Orr did not record a ball-handling error and led the Huskers with 26 assists and six digs. Anni Evans added 13 assists. Nebraska served six aces with just nine errors and did not surrender an ace to the Wolverines. The Huskers held Michigan to .171 hitting while holding an 11 to two edge in blocks. Kaitlyn Hord led the effort at the net with seven blocks to go with her four kills while Mendelson added four blocks, three kills and two aces in her first extensive serving experience. Lexi Rodriguez recorded a match- and season-high 25 digs with two aces.

Cook said Kubik put on a clinic and that Rodriguez was phenomenal.

“She was in position every time it seemed like,” Cook said about his sophomore libero. “She missed a couple that were hard shots down the line, but she just was reading really well and in the right spot it seemed like and not only was she digging it up, she was digging it insist so that we could transition. I’ll have to look at the stats, how many points we scored off of those 25; I bet we ran a lot of points when she dug the ball.”

Nebraska blitzed Michigan out of the gates, racing out to an 11-3 lead while terminating on five of its first seven swings. The Wolverines misfired on half of their first eight attacks on the other side of the net.

Michigan made a push, pulling within six a few times, but the Huskers created plenty of separation with a 4-0 run to jump ahead 19-9. The Husker advantage peaked at 21-10 after a Kubik ace and the teams traded sideouts the rest of the way.

Michigan dug itself out of the early hole to hit.179, but Nebraska hit .464 with three blocks and three aces to control the set. Kubik led the way with five kills on eight errorless swings.

The teams went back and forth early in the second set until Michigan put together a 5-0 run to take a 10-6 lead. Kubik killed the ball on the first two sets sent her way but the rest of the Huskers struggled to terminate.

The Wolverines finally forced a Kubik attack error with a block to make it 17-13, but the preseason All-Big Ten performer responded with four kills on the next five rallies to lead a 5-0 Nebraska run, giving the Huskers the lead.

Seven more ties and two lead changes followed, forcing the set to extra points, but Lauenstein broke a 24-all tie with a kill then Kubik followed it up with one of her own on an off-speed swing to give the Huskers a deuce game win and a 2-0 match lead.

Kubik notched seven more kills on 10 swings in the second set. Nebraska out-hit Michigan .273 to .200 and added four more blocks to its tally. Kendall Murray, the older sister of 2023 Nebraska commit Harper Murray, came alive for Michigan to match Kubik’s seven kills in game two, but the Huskers held the Wolverines’ top attacker, Jess Mruzik, to .000 hitting through two sets.

The teams traded sideouts to open the third set until Nebraska jumped ahead 5-3 with a 3-0 run. The Huskers pushed the lead to three, Michigan pushed back to pull within one, then the Huskers stretched it back out with a 5-2 run to take a 16-11 lead. Mendelson capped the run with her second ace of the night (and of her career).

“Great team effort, and look at Maggie: hasn’t served all year, comes in, serves two aces, gives them a ton of trouble,” Cook said. “I told you, these guys compete, man.”

Michigan pulled with two a couple of times, but the Huskers finished strong, winning seven of the last 10 rallies to complete the sweep.

Nebraska hit .300 with just two errors in the fourth, recorded four more blocks and held Michigan to .171 hitting. Batenhorst and Lauenstein led the Huskers with four kills apiece in the fourth.

Purdue’s 3-1 loss to Wisconsin on Saturday means Nebraska will head into week four of Big Ten play as the only team without a conference loss. The Huskers will return home for a pair of matches including one against No. 13 Penn State on Friday.

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