Photo by Pat Radigan
25-19, 25-13, 25-20
Holman – 10
Holman – 6
Maloney – 14
Story by Pat Radigan
Holman’s error-free effort, dominance at the net powers Nebraska past Retrievers
It didn’t take long for Briana Holman to draw gasps from the home crowd after crushing a ball to the floor for NU’s first kill on Friday.
And despite their best efforts, there was little that the UMBC front line could do to stop Holman, who was fueled by the return of All-American setter Kelly Hunter, from leading the charge.
“For teams like this, they were smaller, and I really like to get up and hit over them,” Holman said. “(Kelly) can get it high, but throw it still, so it’s faster.”
Following a tough trip to Florida to open the year, the Huskers used Holman’s 10 kills and 6 blocks to blow past UMBC for a sweep in the first of two matches on Friday. With the return of Hunter, who split time in a two-setter system, Nebraska came up with enough firepower to see off any chance of an upset, and survived a late Retriver rally to hold on for the sweep.
The first two sets got away from UMBC, but the visitors from Maryland came out after the break to make the Huskers earn the sweep. After winning the first point of the match, UMBC did not lead again until the third set, with its largest lead only ever hitting two points. The last such lead of the match for the Retrievers came at 16-14, but any hope of sneaking a set off the Huskers was erased by a 6-1 spurt from Nebraska.
Nebraska’s lead was trimmed back to one at 21-20, but the Huskers ran off the final four points to slam the door on the sweep. With two more matches to come in the next day, NU coach John Cook said it was important for his team to respond and put away the match in three.
“Three matches in 26 hours, so you want to try and get through these things,” Cook said. “We lost a little focus there, but then we really finished strong.”
After missing both games last weekend, Hunter returned to the starting lineup, but in a retooled system to help her ease her way back to fitness. Hunter made way for Anezka Szebo when it was her turn to rotate to the front row, with Hunter Atherton stepping in for Jazz Sweet in the back row in a 6-2 system.
Despite a few hiccups and UMBC runs over the first two sets, though, it seemed to work just fine for the Huskers, who were powered by Holman’s dominance at the net. Holman posted 9 kills on 10 swings over the first two sets, and made up for her one ’empty’ swing by tapping in a kill after her she had an attempt blocked back.
Holman also chipped in a solo block and three block assists over those first two sets, and played a key role in Nebraska forcing a -.097 hitting percentage from UMBC in a dominant 25-13 win in game two.
Hunter’s impact was also evident early, with the senior contributing 15 of the 24 set assists for NU in the first two set wins. Cook said after the match that it’s going to be “hard” to see a scenario where Hunter isn’t playing all six rotations as the year goes on. But with the way the weekend set up, and considering Hunter’s health situation, he made the decision to go with the 6-2 in the first of three matches this weekend.
For Hunter, it was just nice to get back to influencing the game instead of “watching and learning.”
“We had to get our rotations down (with the 6-2), but that had been the plan all week,” Hunter said. “It gets more bodies out there, fresh people, but for me it’s a three-day weekend and a tough weekend to come in on.”
Next up for Nebraska is a Friday night matchup with Oral Roberts, before hosting Saint Mary’s in the weekend finale on Saturday afternoon.