Photo by Pat Radigan
26-24, 25-22, 25-18
Szabo – 10
Holman – 7
Maloney – 22
Story by Pat Radigan
Huskers survive turbulent start, sweep Saint Mary’s to cap off 3-0 weekend without dropping a set
Saint Mary’s may have earned the first set point of the day, but five straight from Nebraska handed the Huskers a 26-24 first set win on the way to a sweep of the Gaels on Saturday afternoon.
Freshman Anezka Szabo started the rally with a kill to erase that first set point, and went on to lead the Huskers with 10 kills on 20 tries. That combined with another dominant outing from Briana Holman, who put away tournament MVP honors behind 9 kills and 6 block assists, and allowed No. 12 Nebraska to finish the Ameritas Players Challenge with a 3-2 record for the year.
After a pair of convincing sweeps on Friday, Nebraska found itself in an early hole as Saint Mary’s capitalized on early Husker errors to take a 21-16 lead in the first set. Three straight for NU closed the gap, but it couldn’t stop the Gaels from pushing the lead to 24-21 after a kill from Sienna Young.
Szabo answered for NU with a kill that clipped the back line, as confirmed by replay, before Holman snuck a kill through the block and evened the set at 24. The Gaels called timeout, but that did little to stop Nebraska’s momentum. Freshman Jazz Sweet got a kill on the next point, and the Huskers took the set when a swing sailed long on set point.
The second set followed suit with a back-and-forth start, but Nebraska put together a 7-2 spurt to turn a 10-10 tie into a 5-point lead, and kept a cushion the rest of the set. Szabo secured the 2-0 lead at the break with an emphatic kill on set point, which gave her 7 kills over the first two sets after posting just 4 total in NU’s first four matches.
“I love Anezka’s fight and spirit out there,” said NU coach John Cook. “She just really competes, but we need those guys. Last year’s class is gone, so we need new people to step up. We’ve got to figure that out before Big Ten.”
Another Nebraska run cost Saint Mary’s in the third set as well, this time in the form of a 6-0 streak that gave the Huskers a 21-15 edge and put SMC on the verge of being swept. Two kills from Annika Albrecht and three Gaels errors later, it was over.
Nebraska forced SMC into .023 and .065 hitting marks in the final two sets respectively, and limited itself to 11 errors in those sets after 8 hitting errors in the first set nearly cost NU. Despite going 3-0 over the weekend without dropping a set, Cook said there was still work to be done as the Huskers tried to find their form heading toward Big Ten play.
“I think we’ve got a lot to work on, but I’m sure every coach is saying that right now. We’ve competed really well, but we’ve got to improve on some things, it’s a learning curve.”