No. 2 Nebraska went into the weekend down a woman and lost another in the first set but still pulled out a 3-1 win over Arizona to open play the SDSU/USD Challenge in San Diego.
The Huskers took down the Wildcats 25-17, 25-14, 17-25, 25-17, out-hitting Arizona .214 to .111.The Huskers won the blocking battle nine to six, out-dug the Wildcats 69-57 and served up two more aces (six to four) with three fewer errors (six to nine).
Sophomore outside hitter Capri Davis will not play this weekend after an injury kept her out of practice this week and sophomore middle blocker Callie Schwarzenbach twisted her ankle late in the first set and spent the rest of the match on the bench.
Junior outside hitter Lexi Sun led everyone with 15 kills on .353 hitting in her first match back at home in the San Diego area. She added eight digs, three blocks and two aces. Freshman outside hitter Madi Kubik finished strong after a slow start, recording seven of her 13 kills in the fourth set with just two attack errors after notching four errors and six kills in the first three sets. he added 13 digs for her first double-double as a Husker. Junior opposite hitter Jazz Sweet added 11 kills on .320 hitting with six digs.
Freshman libero Kenzie Knuckles posted a match-high 19 digs and five assists. Sophomore setter Nicklin Hames recorded her second double-double in three games with 40 assists, 14 digs and three aces.
Paige Whipple led the Wildcats with 13 kills but hit just .114 as the Huskers forced her into making with attack errors.
Nebraska struck first in the first set and never trailed, gradually building up a lead but never pulling away. The Wildcats pulled to within one midway through the set but the Huskers broke the game open with a 4-0 run to pull ahead 19-14. After trading sideouts, the Huskers closed out the set with a 5-2 run. Schwarzenbach went down with the Huskers leading 23-16 and freshman outside hitter/middle blocker Riley Zuhn stepped in, making her collegiate debut.
Sun had seven kills including the winner while misfiring just one time. The Huskers played a clean game with just three attack errors total, hitting .326.
The second set was all Nebraska from the start. Hames opened the frame with an ace, sparking a 13-1 run that included Arizona burning both of its timeouts in the first five rallies. The Wildcats got no closer than within eight the rest of the set as the Huskers cruised to victory.
The Huskers hit a blistering .438 and served up four aces in the second set.
After everything went right in the second set, it all went wrong in the third set as Arizona jumped out to an 8-2 lead. The Wildcats continued to roll, stretching the lead out to as much as 12 at 21-9. Nebraska started crawling back into the game, scoring eight of the next 11 points, but an errant attack put a halt to the comeback after Nebraska had scored three straight.
Nebraska hit -.081 with 11 attack errors, though the Wildcats weren’t all that much better at .091.
Arizona led for much of the first 20 or so points until the Huskers flipped things with a 5-0 run served by Hames that put them up 14-10. The Nebraska lead bounced between four and six until a 3-0 run gave the Huskers match point. Arizona staved off elimination for one rally but Sun finished it off on the next point with a solo block.
Nebraska held the Wildcats to .056 in the final set, winning with defense as the Huskers hit just .179 themselves.
Coach John Cook said during his post-game radio interview than Schwarzenbach could have returned to the match if they needed her and that her availability for Saturday night’s match will depend on how sore she is. Zuhn had three kills and two errors on seven swings with four blocks in relief of Schwarzenbach.
The Husker will take on the host Toreros of No. 25 San Diego at 9 p.m. CST on Saturday. The WCC Network will broadcast that match while the Husker Sports Network will carry that radio call.
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.