In a match with a few comebacks, the Nebraska volleyball team never gave itself much of a chance to make one more in the final set during a five-set loss against Purdue on Saturday in West Lafayette, Indiana.
Outside hitter Caitlyn Newton had 17 kills to lead 20th-ranked Purdue to a 23-25, 25-23, 25-17, 20-25, 15-8 victory.
For No. 5 Nebraska it ends a five-match winning streak, and for Purdue its ends a streak of seven straight losses against Nebraska.
That also ends an 11-match road winning streak for Nebraska, coming over two seasons.
Nebraska overcame some bad stretches of play with some big comebacks to even get to a fifth set. In the first set Purdue led 21-12 before Nebraska ended the set on a 13-2 run. Then after losing the second and third sets, Nebraska won the fourth set to extend the match.
But in the fifth set Purdue took control early by winning six consecutive points for a 7-1 lead. That included a stretch where Nebraska got aced, got blocked and hit out. The closet the Huskers got the rest of the set was trailing 13-8.
“We got stuck in that one rotation, we didn’t pass, we got aced, we made a hitting error, made another hitting error,” said Nebraska coach John Cook in a radio interview. “So that’s five points right there. That blew open game five.”
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The biggest thing that hurt Nebraska in a very close match was 31 hitting errors, compared with 18 for Purdue. Nebraska actually had 10 more kills than Purdue.
“Purdue attacked us the whole night,” Cook said. “We were very inconsistent and gave up runs and made a lot of passive plays. We made a couple good comebacks. Set one was a good comeback, but when you get aced 11 times and get out blocked (16-5) and make 31 hitting errors you’re not going to win. We’re lucky to be in the fifth game. Totally lucky. That’s probably a miracle.”
Nebraska is the second top-five ranked team to lose this week, joining No. 1 Baylor and No. 2 Stanford. So now at the halfway mark of the Big Ten season Nebraska has an 8-2 league record.
Lexi Sun and Lauren Stivrins led Nebraska with 18 kills apiece. Madi Kubik added 12 kills, but hit just .050. Callie Schwarzenbach had eight kills and hit .533.
Playing its second road match in two days, Nebraska didn’t do a good job of following the game plan, Cook said.
“You got to give Purdue credit. They took it to us,” Cook said. “They were swinging, and we were tipping. They served the crap out of it. Eleven aces.”
— Brent C. Wagner