The way the Nebraska volleyball team began Sunday’s match against Michigan was certainly not a thing of beauty.
You’ll agree, John Cook?
“We got blocked five times and couldn’t do anything,” the NU coach said. “Nothing was working very well. Michigan was playing really well and bringing it to us. We were standing around like we were forgetting to approach to hit, and setting people that aren’t there. We just weren’t checked in.”
Sixth-ranked Nebraska got back into the match with some long scoring runs, momentum-building blocks and winning more of the long rallies than it lost for a 21-25, 25-13, 25-17, 25-21 victory against the unranked Wolverines in front of 4,084 fans at the NU Coliseum.
Following the first two weeks of Big Ten conference play, Nebraska is tied for third in the league standings with a 3-1 record. Penn State and Purdue lead the way with 4-0 records.
Morgan Broekhuis led Nebraska with 16 kills, and Gina Mancuso and Hayley Thramer added 12 apiece.
Thramer took advantage of several one-on-one situations against blockers and out-of-system sets from Lauren Cook to match her career high in kills on a .450 hitting percentage.
In the first set, Michigan led 22-14 before Nebraska went on a 7-1 run to pull to 23-21. Michigan scored the final two points of the set, but the Huskers had set the stage for the remainder of the match.
“Momentum is huge,” Broekhuis said. “We started to get some runs, and took that over into the second set.”
John Cook had a flashback to Nebraska’s football game against Wisconsin on Saturday. Wisconsin led 14-3 after the first quarter before the Huskers came back for a 30-27 victory.
“I told myself, ‘Now I know how (Bo Pelini) felt in the first quarter,'” the coach said.
“I think they (the Huskers) realized that they needed to crank it up a gear. I think what started it is Lauren got us a big (serving) run in game two and we got some confidence from there. Gina got hot, Morgan got hot, and our middle blockers got hot. We started getting some momentum and blocked a couple balls and started digging some balls and got the crowd into it. I thought we took off from there.”
In the second set, Nebraska hit an impressive .548, with 18 kills on 31 attempts and only one hitting error. Broekhuis had six kills on nine attempts in the set, with no errors.
The Huskers outblocked Michigan 16-12, with the total a season best for Nebraska. Broekhuis had a season-best eight blocks and Thramer seven. Mancuso had three solo blocks.
Lexi Erwin, Michigan’s outside hitter who ranks eighth in the conference in kills, struggled, with only two kills on 22 attempts. Right-side hitter Claire McElheney led Michigan with 12 kills.
Michigan made frequent lineup changes. That’s not a recipe for success, Michigan coach Mark Rosen said.
Also, Rosen felt Nebraska raised its play on defense as the match went on. Nebraska had 72 digs and Michigan 65.
“(Nebraska) touched a lot of balls,” Rosen said. “Their block is very good, so they touched a lot of balls there.
“I thought their back-row defense was really good. They react to things really quickly. If it (the ball) changed direction, they get a hand on it and got it up. You’ve got to be very precise with what you’re doing to get a ball on the floor. And you probably have to take two or three swings to get a ball on the floor, which means you got to dig balls, too. That’s why they’re good.”