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No. 4 Huskers Sweep Wildcats in First Road Match

September 03, 2023

No. 4 Nebraska went from playing in front of a crowd of 92,003 on Wednesday to competing in front of a crowd of 3,044 packed into Kansas State’s new Morgan Family Arena, but the result remained the same: a Husker sweep.

Nebraska (5-0) took down Kansas State (4-1) 25-21, 25-15, 25-19 on Sunday, closing strong in all three sets. The Huskers hit .277 while holding their fifth straight opponent under .100 at .029, recording a season-high 12 blocks.

“It was a very competitive match,” Coach John Cook said during his post-match radio interview. “I was very impressed with how hard K-State played. They do a nice job for their system and their team … They run a pretty fast tempo and those little hitters get up there move it around. So it took us a while to adjust to the speed and then they off-speed and junk a lot … But a great crowd, great environment. They’ve got a lot of newspapers and sparklies to clean up.”

Merritt Beason got off to a great start before slowing down, finishing with 10 kills on .214 hitting, six blocks and an ace. Andi Jackson came on strong late to also finish with 10 kills on .750 hitting and five blocks.

Outside hitters Lindsay Krause and Harper Murray added nine kills apiece, hitting .286 and .231, respectively. Krause added five digs and four blocks while Murray chipped in five digs.

Bergen Reilly notched her first career double-double with 29 assists, a match-high 12 digs and an ace. Lexi Rodriguez added 11 digs while Bekka Allick recorded a match-high seven blocks.

“This was a great test for us, and I told the team I was really proud of them because we could have had a letdown this weekend from Wednesday. Everybody kept asking me ‘Are they going to be ready? Are they going to be ready?’ There were a lot of emotions spent Wednesday night and we weathered their storm a little bit and found a way to win game one and then kind of impose our will as the match went on.”

The teams went back and forth in set one with three lead changes and 10 ties, the last of which came at 17-all. Nebraska took control from that point, however, with a 5-1 run including two kills apiece from Beason and Murray to put Nebraska up 22-18. The teams traded sideouts the rest of the way as Krause closed it out with a cross-court kill on set point.

Nebraska’s block showed up early with four stuffs (three assists apiece for Krause and Jackson) and the offense took off late as the Huskers hit .368 for the set. Beason did the heavy lifting with eight kills on 13 errorless swings. Kansas State hit .220.

Set two looked like a blowout early with Nebraska scoring the first five points, but Kansas State settled in and used a 4-0 run to get back in it. The Wildcats cut the deficit to two a few times, but a 4-1 Nebraska run stretched the lead to 17-11. Kansas State made one last push with three straight, but Nebraska closed the frame on an 8-1 run.

Nebraska hit .207 in the second set and held Kansas State to minus-.121 thanks in part to five blocks. Beason slowed down offensively but was in on four of the five stuffs.

“I thought Merritt came out and just looked awesome,” Cook said. “And then she just kind of went into a little bit of a rut and kind of reverted back to some old habits that we’ve been trying to break.” 

Kansas State opened the third set with a kill, a block and an ace to take control early and the Huskers played catch-up from there. A 3-0 Kansas State run extend the lead to five at 12-7, but Nebraska used a timeout to settle down and put together a 7-1 run to take its first lead in the set at 14-13. Kansas State pushed back with three straight, but Nebraska surged ahead again with a 5-0 run and Nebraska closed the match on a 4-1 spurt featuring three kills and a block from Jackson.

Nebraska hit .235, cleaning things up after an error-plagued start, while Kansas State finished at .029 after a hot beginning. Jackson had four kills on six swings in game three.

Sunday was Nebraska’s first opportunity to play in front of a hostile crowd, and Cook was impressed with how his young team handled it, especially during the third-set comeback.

“We’re playing freshmen,” Cook said. “This was their first time in here. I told them ‘You’re going to get punched in the mouth today, so get ready; I want to see how we respond.’ K-state threw a couple of big punches, and then in game three they came out, that could have been an easy game for them to kind of let up a little bit, but I thought they played great the first 10 points of game three and there was nothing we could do. They were digging everything. We were bombing balls and they were just popping them up right to the setter and here they go.”

Nebraska will return home to face its first ranked opponent of the season when No. 20 Creighton makes the drive down I-80 to the Devaney Center on Wednesday.

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