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Photo Credit: Courtesy Rutgers Athletics

No. 3 Nebraska Serves Up Sweep at Rutgers

September 30, 2022

No. 3 Nebraska broke out of its serving slump in a big way on Friday night as the Huskers served up a season-high 12 aces in a 3-0 win at Rutgers.

Nebraska (11-1, 3-0 Big Ten) also hit a season-high .405 in the 25-13, 25-7, 25-15 sweep over the Scarlet Knights (7-8, 1-2).

“I thought the Huskers came to to play tonight,” Coach John Cook said during his post-match radio interview. “We thumped serves really well, we tried to run a lot of middle and we kind of made Rutgers pretty uncomfortable.”

Nebraska recorded just eight service errors to go with their 12 aces, while Rutgers had three errors and zero aces. Kennedi Orr and Lexi Rodriguez led the way with three aces apiece, Bekka Allick and Madi Kubik served two each and Whitney Lauenstein and Kenzie Knuckles chipped in one apiece.

“This gym’s cold, so the ball is really moving in here today,” Cook said. “When we practiced today, I said ‘First of all, we can get aces if we thump, and two, they’re going to thump at us, so be ready.’ … They have some really good servers. We had a couple overpasses, but we kind of corrected that and passed pretty well.”

Lauenstein led the offense again with 11 kills on .391 hitting. Kubik added nine kills on 16 errorless swings (562 hitting). Kaitlyn Hord terminated on six of her eight swings and added three blocks. Lindsay Krause added five kills on 11 errorless swings (.455 hitting) while playing both outside and opposite hitter.

Orr led the Huskers with 17 assists and nine digs while Anni Evans chipped in 11 assists and four digs as Nicklin Hames remained sidelined with a back injury.

“I thought they did really, really good stuff,” Cook said of the setter play. “Kennedi is still giving up a couple points here and there; we just can’t do that. But she made some great sets tonight, too. So hopefully she’ll build on that and continue to build confidence. And Anni did a really good job.”

Rodriguez tied Orr for the team0high in digs with nine as Nebraska held Rutgers to minus-.012.

Cook said the serving pressure was the key to his teams defensive dominance.

“You saw at the very beginning, they came out and ran middle and No. 22 [Alissa Kinkela] got four kills in that game one they were they were actually passing pretty well,” Cook said. “Once their passing started to break down they just lost their whole rhythm and everything. We were trying to force the ball to 22 and I can’t remember her getting a big swing in games two and three. She was really good game one.”

Nebraska took control early in the first set as Rodriguez served a 6-0 run including three aces to give the Huskers a 7-1 lead. Later, Allick put together her own 6-0 run at the service line to push Nebraska’s lead to double digits at 16-5. The lead grew to 12 five different times as the Huskers rolled to a 1-0 lead.

Nebraska hit .417 with a balanced attack while Rutgers hit just .071. Allick added an ace to Rodriguez’s three to give Nebraska four in the first set, an encouraging sign as the two underclassmen led the team in service errors heading into the match (24 by Allick, 20 by Rodriguez).

Lauenstein asserted herself in set two with three early kills and an ace as the Huskers jumped out to a 7-2 lead, and they steamrolled through the Scarlet Knights the rest of the way as the Huskers continued to assert pressure from the service line. Allick served her second ace to make it 12-4 and draw a Rutgers timeout. She missed her serve out of the break, but the Cornhuskers closed the set on a 13-2 run from there including three more aces (two by Orr, one by Knuckles).

Nebraska hit .500 in the set behind four kills from Lauenstein and three apiece from Krause and Kubik. Rutgers hit minus-.136 with just three kills. The Huskers added five more aces to their tally.

Nebraska opened the third set with four straight kills (two by Lauenstein, two by Hord) before a successful Rutgers challenge turned an ace into a service error. The favorable ruling seemed to provide a spark for the Scarlet Knights as they pushed back, pulling within one at 8-7 thanks to a 5-2 run.

The Scarlet Knights had four more chances to tie it up but couldn’t get over the hump and the Cornhuskers pulled away with a 6-0 run including two aces from Kubik. Nebraska finished it off with a 6-1 run capped by a match-point ace from Orr.

Nebraska hit .343 in the third while holding Rutgers to .000. Lauenstein added four more kills to her total. Cook inserted Ally Batenhorst on the left side and moved Krause back to the right early in the set as Batenhorst continues to work her way back into the rotation following her injury. She had one kill and one error on four swings.

Nebraska will continue its road trip with a visit to Maryland on Sunday. The Huskers will fly into D.C. on Saturday, practice in the afternoon then get up and play a mid-day match on Sunday.

“Those are always interesting matches and I’m going to challenge our captains to make sure our team is dialed in. But we kind of experienced this at Kentucky — East Coast time, little earlier than we’re used to, Sunday. So we know how to do it, we’ve just got to make sure we come prepared to play.”

Maryland sold out the match earlier in the week. First serve is set for noon CT on Big Ten Plus.

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