Photo by Quincey Epley
22-25, 17-25, 25-20, 25-23, 15-8
Albrecht – 10
Stivrins – 5
Townsend – 17
Story by Pat Radigan
Nebraska grinds conference record to 4-0, including three wins over top 10 teams
It took four matches for the Husker volleyball team to drop a set in Big Ten action. Then the second set slipped away against No. 7 Wisconsin, and you could feel the tension building among the home fans in a packed Devaney Center.
But like they’d done in the previous three matches, Nebraska found a rhythm behind aggressive serving and a balanced attack, and ran off three straight sets to survive and move to 4-0 in conference play.
“All I know is our team just beat three top 7 teams in 8 days,” said NU coach John Cook. “I’d like to know any team that’s done that in any sport.”
Nebraska ran out to a big lead in the third set to start the comeback, snuck out the fourth and rolled to a 15-8 win in the fifth to push past the Badgers. The Huskers were led by 18 kills and 12 digs by Annika Albrecht, and had defensive sub Sydney Townsend chip in a match-high 17 digs, in a scrappy showdown of two of the Big Ten’s best.
Back-to-back kills by Briana Holman brought Nebraska back within one at 22-21 in the first set, before the Badgers won three of the next four to escape with a 1-0 lead. Things got worse in the second set. Nebraska managed just 7 kills, and committed 5 hitting errors, to allow Wisconsin to hold a steady cushion throughout the set.
After posting 15 kills and just one error in the first set, the Badgers hit a more managable .205 in the second, but still pulled away for a 25-17 win to go up 2-0.
The intermission allowed Nebraska to hit the reset button, and the Huskers came back in the third set looking like a different team. Wisconsin win three straight points to cut NU’s lead to 12-9, but that’s as close as they’d get in the set as Nebraska quickly pushed that lead to 20-12. The Badgers fought off five straight set points to cut into the Huskers’ momentum, but a double stuff block by Jazz Sweet and Lauren Stivrins slammed the door on the set.
Wisconsin came out in the fourth set much like they did to open the match, taking an early lead on the Huskers, but this time Nebraska found a way to answer. Eight straight points for NU turned a 7-2 deficit into a 3-point lead, but that would prove to be the largest lead Nebraska had in the set.
A Badger error evened the set at 17-17, but Wisconsin won the next two points to take the momentum back. Nebraska took a timeout, and as the crowd got loud Wisconsin’s Dana Rettke sent a serve into the net. Wisconsin went up 21-19 as the two sides traded points, before Albrecht and Foecke registered kills on back-to-back points to even the set.
With the fourth set tied 23-23, and Nebraska just two points from defeat, the Huskers kept the momentum from evening the set to win the next two rallies. Foecke got a kill down to earn a side out for NU, and added another on the first set point to push the match to a winner-take-all fifth set.
It looked like Nebraska was in for another dogfight of a set with the fifth tied at 5-5, but then NU found a bit of space as Foecke and Albrecht rattled off back-to-back kills. A block by Albrecht and Stivrins made it 9-6, and Albrecht added a pair of kills on the next two points to give the Huskers a cushion. Wisconsin eventually sent a serve long on match point, and that brought the Husker bench spilling onto the court to celebrate the comeback.
After knocking off Minnesota and Wisconsin in back-to-back matches, the Huskers will now take on a Michigan State team that opened conference play by accomplishing the same feat. The Spartans survived a five-set test at Wisconsin, then swept Minnesota in Minneapolis, and will now bring their 4-0 record to Lincoln on Wednesday in a showdown of the two teams tied atop the conference standings.