The Nebraska volleyball team got to feel the pressure from an opponent that so many of the Huskers’ foes have felt over the past two seasons on Saturday.
Fifth-ranked Minnesota did a lot of what the Huskers have done well in that stretch in a 25-20, 23-25, 25-14, 25-21 win against No. 3 Nebraska in front of 8,420 fans at the Devaney Sports Center.
The loss means Nebraska’s 14-match winning streak is done, and Minnesota broke the first-place tie with the Huskers at the top of the Big Ten standings and now leads the league at 6-0.
The Gophers pressured the Huskers with serving, good passing that allowed its impressive offense to work at full strength, and digging what Nebraska hit at them.
“We talk a lot about Nebraska volleyball, but we really just didn’t come out here and play it today,” said Nebraska middle blocker Lauren Stivrins. “It looked like Minnesota was playing Nebraska volleyball, which is something that we need to work on.”
The Gophers’ good offense beat the Huskers’ good defense. Minnesota had 66 kills, and Nebraska had 52. Minnesota also had 14 more digs and three more ace serves than Nebraska.
“I just feel like they willed it away from us, kind of,” said Nebraska libero Kenzie Maloney. “They were suffocating us on defense, and we felt that pressure. … It just comes down to how much you care about getting the ball up, and communicating with your teammates and trusting training and stuff like that. Our lack of care was what hurt us tonight.”
Nebraska hadn’t been pressured in recent weeks, and the Huskers now know what they’ll have to improve on quickly for the remaining seven weeks of Big Ten play.
“I felt like at times we weren’t really trying as hard as we could have,” Maloney said.
Minnesota freshman outside hitter Adanna Rollins had a match-high 17 kills. But where the biggest different came was at the middle blocker position. The Gophers’ middle blockers combined for 22 kills, while the Huskers’ had 11. Minnesota junior middle blocker Taylor Morgan had 13 kills on 22 attempts for a .500 hitting parentage.
“She jumps high, and she hits it pretty hard,” said Minnesota coach Hugh McCutcheon of Morgan. “It’s her ability to be available with different tempos and different spaces and work it around at some pretty good angles. I think those things help. She’s becoming a very, very good volleyball player.”
Nebraska didn’t lead at any point of the match until early in the second set, but won that set to tie the match 1-1.
Minnesota crushed the Huskers in the third set to take a 2-1 match lead. The Gophers had another good start to the fourth set. Nebraska got what had been a seven-point deficit down to three points twice, but could never get closer. Minnesota setter Samantha Seliger-Swenson tipped the ball over on match point for a 25-21 set win. It was her sixth kill on seven attempts.
All-America outside hitter Alexis Hart added 11 kills for the Gophers, and All-America right-side hitter Stephanie Samedy had 10.
When Nebraska was sending over easy serves, and hitting easy shots over the net on busted plays, it allowed the Gophers’ attack to go to work.
“What happens is we hit a shot to the libero, and they’re ramming it down our throat because they’ve got Hart coming on a really fast set, or Samedy coming behind on a really fast set,” Nebraska coach John Cook said. “It’s really hard to stop when (the setter) is standing up there at the net and can set either one of those.”
Senior outside hitter Mikaela Foecke led the Huskers with 16 kills. Jazz Sweet added 13, and Lexi Sun had 12.
Photos from Saturday’s NU-Minnesota match
Source: The Associated Press