No. 9 Nebraska breezed by Indiana on Wednesday night, sweeping the Hoosiers in a 93-minute match at the Devaney Center.
“I thought the Huskers took care of business,” Coach John Cook said. “I was a little worried tonight. Just ask [SID Bonnie Ryan], we were talking about how long a week it’s been and weird playing this late on a school night, Wednesday night. But I thought they were pretty focused. We did a lot of really good things tonight and kept the pressure on Indiana. So I’m pretty pleased with that effort.”
The Huskers took down the Hoosiers 25-13, 25-15, 25-15 in front of a crowd of 8,302 for an 8 p.m. start. Nebraska committed just 10 attack errors all night, hitting .367.
“Anytime in the Big Ten you can hit .367, almost 50% kill [rate], we’ll take it,” Cook said. “That’s a big number against any Big Ten team.”
Madi Kubik started hot and finished strong en route to a 16-kill night on .308 hitting. Lindsay Krause added 10 kills on .400 hitting. Ally Batenhorst made the most of her sets with five kills on seven swings.
After serving 18 aces in their last two matches, Nebraska finished with just four (and five errors) against the Hoosiers, but Cook was still pleased with his team’s serving.
“We have a passing number on them that I can look at any time during the match,” Cook said. “We didn’t get a lot of aces tonight … but we were definitely stressing them with our serve, and they were not in a rhythm at all.”
The Huskers held Indiana to .057 hitting and out-dug the Hoosiers 58 to 36. Kenzie Knuckles led the defensive effort with 14 digs, two kills and an ace. Nicklin Hames notched a double-double with 26 assists, 13 digs, three kills, two blocks and an ace. Keonilei Akana added 10 digs off the bench while Lexi Rodriguez just missed a double-double with nine digs and a career-high nine assists.
“That’s a heck of a night for a libero,” Cook said. “That’s why I felt like we were out of system a little bit, but those are long rallies and we did shank a couple passes that Roddy had to set because Nicklin couldn’t get to them. There are a lot of ways to kill the ball, and as we always say everybody’s a setter.”
Kayla Caffey did not play and was not on the bench as she continues to deal with the non-COIVD-19 illness that kept her out of Sunday’s win over Rutgers. Cook said he hadn’t talked to her on Wednesday but had heard that she was feeling a little bit better.
Nebraska jumped out to a 5-1 lead as Krause got off to a hot start with a couple of early kills. Indiana battled to stay in it, pulling within two a couple of times, but a 3-0 run pushed Nebraska’s lead to 14-8, then a 4-0 stretch made it 19-10.
Indiana dug into the lead with a kill and a block, but the Huskers closed it out with a 6-1 run featuring a Lauren Stivrins Slide kill on set point.
Nebraska hit .405 with 18 kills and just three errors. Kubik out-killed Indiana’s entire team by herself, eight to seven, and Krause added five kills on eight errorless attempts. The Hoosiers hit .054.
“I think Indiana blocks a very specific way and they scheme a lot, so they were deciding who they were blocking before the pass even went up, which allows specific opportunities for people,” Kubik said. “Nicklin was setting the ball with a lot of flow, and just putting everyone in really good positions to be successful.”
Kubik tacked on two more kills early, then Hames took over with two kills in a three-play span (one on a setter dump, one on a traditional swing off a bump set from Stivrins) to give the huskers a 9-4 lead in set two.
THAT CORNHUSKER COMBO THO. pic.twitter.com/tVzescQIcI
— Husker Volleyball (@Huskervball) October 14, 2021
“It’s been fun,” Krause said about Hames’ attacking. “Nicki’s been working on her dumps quite a bit and being versatile. She had that one kill and then dumped to the donut, dumped to the corner.”
Anni Evans served a 4-0 run as the Huskers doubled up the Hoosiers at 14-7 and Nebraska gradually pulled away from there, closing out the set with a 6-2 run to take a 2-0 match lead at the intermission.
After Kubik controlled the the first set, Hames spread the ball around in the second as Krause, Batenhorst and Hames herself led the way with three kills apiece. Nebraska hit .414 while Indiana hit .222.
Indiana scored the first two points of the third set to take its first lead of the night, but the Huskers responded by winning 13 of the next 14 rallies. Lexi Sun checked in for Batenhorst with the Huskers leading 16-6, and Whitney Lauenstein checked in for Krause a handful of rallies later.
Indiana made a slight push, winning four-out-of five points to cut a 10-point lead down to seven at 18-11, but Cook called a timeout to regroup and Nebraska finished the match strong from there. The Huskers used a 6-2 run to earn match point and finished it off two rallies later with a marathon point that ended in a Kubik kill after a successful challenge by Cook.
Kubik closed out the match strong with six kills as Nebraska hit .281. Defensively, the Huskers held Indiana to minus-.049 with nine attack errors.
Nebraska will return to the Devaney Center on Saturday to host an Illinois team who received votes in the most recent AVCA Coaches Poll. First serve is set for 6 p.m. CT on Nebraska Public Media.
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.