Mikaela Foecke exploded for a career-best hitting percentage in a dominant Husker performance as Nebraska improved to 2-2 with a 25-8, 25-16, 25-10 sweep over Oral Roberts in the Americas Classic Friday night at the Devaney Center.
The 34 points by the Golden Eagles is the second fewest Nebraska has allowed in a match during the rally scoring era.
Foecke recorded 14 kills on a career-best .737 hitting while also pitching in three blocks and two aces. In two matches on Saturday, she recorded 23 kills on .583 hitting.
“I think it’s just really exciting,” Foecke said. “Looking at the stats and talking in the locker room, in the first set we didn’t have a single hitting error and I think that’s why not [just] I was able to get kills, but every single person on our team was. It's super fun running an offense where you’re super-confident and you go up and take rips and you know that if you do get blocked, there's defense behind you covering.“
As she said, Foecke wasn’t the only one locked in. As a team, the Huskers hit .576, the second-best mark in school history. Nebraska committed four total errors — all in the second set — and notched a 100-percent sideout rate in the first and third sets.
“I think the Huskers came out again with a great start and stayed really focused through the entire night, didn't let Oral Roberts impact the way we were playing,” Coach John Cook said. “Any time you sideout 100 percent in two games with zero errors, that’s pretty good.
“I counted five errors just in warmups hitting on an open net off free balls. Good job by our team tonight.”
Cook credited passing for the team’s incredible hitting numbers. Defensively, freshman middle blocker Lauren Stivrins said the team's focus over the past week has been on blocking and it paid off on Saturday night as Nebraska recorded eight blocks and impacted many other attempts by the Golden Eagles. Oral Roberts finished with more attack errors (25) than kills (20).
Oral Roberts didn't know what hit it in the first set as Nebraska rolled to an easy win. Foecke tied the Golden Eagles by herself with eight kills in the first set. Nebraska out-hit Oral Roberts .652 to -.032.
The Golden Eagles offered more of a fight in the second set but Nebraska led wire-to-wire and out-hit them .300 to .095 as Foecke had four more kills on five attempts.
Nebraska didn’t slow down at all in the third, recording another near-perfect set to complete the sweep. Nebraska hit a blazing .812 while holding Oral Roberts to -.231 as the Golden Eagles had 12 errors to six kills.
“I think we took a big step,” Cook said. “We talked about if we want to be a great team, we have to understand that you have to play every point all-out, and I think they embraced that tonight. That's a big compliment to our team, to be able to do that. That’s not easy to do."
Foecke said that although the level of competition was not comparable, she definitely saw progress from week one to week two.
“I think that going out there, we’re not playing timid and we have a lot more confidence,” Foecke said. “I feel like, as Coach says, we're playing with a lot more ultimate trust. Last weekend wasn't bad when it comes to that but I think this weekend you can just tell, like when we come together in huddles, even after losing a point it’s a lot tighter and a lot more eye contact and that’s something that we look for.”
Stivrins added seven kills on .500 hitting, while freshman Jazz Sweet converted six of her swings into kills. Kenzie Maloney had a match-high 10 digs. Kelly Hunter led all players with 18 assists while Hunter Atherton chipped in 11 as the Huskers continued to run a 6-2 system with both setters getting a chance to play.
Nebraska has one more match to play on Saturday afternoon as the Huskers will face a St. Mary's team that also went 2-0 on Friday.
“St. Mary’s played Washington and Creighton last week; they're not afraid to play big teams,” Cook said. “They came here to play us. I think it’s going to be a good match and I'm looking forward to the challenge.”
First serve is set for 2 p.m.
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.