Wisconsin swept Nebraska on its own floor back on Oct. 5 as the Huskers had no answer defensively for what the Badgers threw at them. After that match, Nebraska won 12 of 13 matches while the Badgers also dropped one, setting up a rematch in Madison with big implications in the Big Ten title race.
However, round two went much like the first as No. 5 Wisconsin swept No. 6 Nebraska 25-19, 25-22, 25-21 in front of 7,052 fans at the Wisconsin Field House. For just the second time all season, the Huskers allowed an opponent to hit over .300 for the match. The first team to do so was also Wisconsin.
The Badgers (21-5, 17-1 Big Ten) hit .331 and recorded eight blocks while the Huskers (23-4, 15-3) hit .239 and only managed four blocks in three sets. Nebraska did not record a single ace.
Junior outside hitter Lexi Sun stepped up offensively for the Huskers with 16 kills on .308 hitting. Junior middle blocker Lauren Stivrins recorded eight kills but also had four attack errors, hitting .200 for the match. No other Huskers had more than five kills, though junior opposite hitter Jazz Sweet hit a team-high .364 with five kills on 11 swings. Freshman outside hitter Madi Kubik led the Huskers with 15 digs but only had five kills on .091 hitting. Sophomore setter Nicklin hames had 31 assists, seven digs and three kills.
Wisconsin had three players reach double-digit kills—Molly Haggerty with 16 on .220 hitting, Dana Rettke with 12 on .480 hitting and Madison Duello with 10 on .450 hitting.
The teams traded blows early on with six ties in the first 14 rallies, but a 3-0 Nebraska run gave the Huskers a 9-7 lead. After going back and forth a couple of times, Wisconsin put together a 6-1 run to turn the tables and take a 14-11 lead.
Sun put down her fourth kill on her eighth swing before the teams traded service errors. Sophomore middle blocker Callie Schwarzenbach notched two kills in a three-point span to pull the Huskers within one but the Badgers responded with a 5-1 spurt with a Wisconsin service error providing Nebraska’s point. Kubik ended the run but Wisconsin scored two straight after that to take a 23-17 lead.
The teams alternated points over the last four rallies to give Wisconsin the four-point win and a 1-0 lead. The Badgers hit .349 with 18 kills as five different hitters notched at least three kills. Sun led the Huskers with four kills but no one else had more than two as the Husker hit .278. Nebraska had just one block in the set.
The Huskers jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second set but Wisconsin used a 4-1 stretch to pull ahead 7-5. The Badgers held onto the lead until Nebraska managed to tie it up at 11-11, but the Badgers responded with a 3-0 run. Nebraska pulled to within one three times, but Wisconsin got a kill from Haggerty and an ace from Tiffany Clark to stretch the lead back to three at 20-17 and draw a timeout from John Cook.
Once again, the sides traded sideouts until a Wisconsin attack sailed wide to make it 24-22, but after a timeout the Badgers put it away. Nebraska hit .405 in the set but the Badgers hit .500 with just two attack errors as the Huskers failed to record a single block in the set. Sun led the Huskers with seven kills in the set and Stivrins added four.
Nebraska jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the third set but the Badgers took the lead with a 5-1 run featuring five kills by four different hitters. Nebraska got its second block of the match on a solo stuff from Sweet to tie it a 6-6 but Wisconsin took the next two rallies. Nebraska used a 4-0 run including another block to pull ahead 12-10, but the Badgers responded with three straight.
After two lead changes and five ties, Wisconsin got a kill and a block to take a 20-18 lead. After four straight sideouts, Wisconsin took control and earned match point with a 3-0 run. Haggerty misfired as Nebraska saved one match point but junior Hayley Densberger missed her serve to end it.
Nebraska held Wisconsin to .209 hitting with seven attack errors (more than the first two sets combined), but the Huskers struggled even more offensively, hitting .057 with 10 kills and eight attack errors.
The loss knocks Nebraska back into a tie for third place in the Big Ten with Minnesota, who the Huskers beat in five sets on Friday night. Penn State is sitting in second place at 16-2 but will play Wisconsin and Minnesota next weekend.
The Huskers close out the regular season with a home stand against Maryland on Friday and Ohio State on Saturday.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.