The good times are still rolling for the No. 5-ranked Nebraska volleyball team, with the latest moment being a 25-19, 25-16, 25-13 win against Maryland on Saturday in College Park, Maryland.
That makes four straight wins. And Nebraska has lost just two sets in that stretch.
Nebraska’s offense has been operating at a high level with the setting of Nicklin Hames. The defense has been really good, with Nebraska holding each of its last four opponents under .150 hitting.
And the serving, which coach John Cook said just a few weeks ago would be graded as a D for the season, was really good on Saturday. Maryland is the best serving team in the Big Ten, but Nebraska won that category and had the Terrapins’ attack operating out of system a lot during the match.
Lexi Sun, Megan Miller, Hayley Densberger and Hames each had one ace serve for the Huskers.
Nebraska may not know how much it’s really improved until it plays another top-10 opponent, but Cook has seen Nebraska go to another level since losing 3-0 against Wisconsin two weeks ago.
“I just think it’s the 'With each other, for each other' starting to happen for them,” said Cook in a radio interview. “They’re really figuring out ways to help each other. You get some of these rallies and you think it’s over and then all of a sudden here comes somebody (for a dig) and they put it somewhere and we kill it.
“That’s a team that’s playing loose, fun, hard, fast. And they’re trusting it.”
After four weeks of the Big Ten season, Nebraska is tied for second place in the Big Ten standings at 7-1. Wisconsin is in first place at 8-0.
Sun had a match-high 12 kills on Saturday in front of 2,225 fans, including hundreds there cheering for Nebraska.
Sun led a balanced attack for the Huskers. Madi Kubik added 10 kills, Jazz Sweet and Lauren Stivrins had six apiece, Callie Schwarzenbach had five kills and Hames three.
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Sun is having a great second season with the Huskers, and has had a hitting percentage of .270 or better in six of the past seven matches. She had kills on four of her first five attempts of the match.
Sun hit .417 on Saturday, and Kubik hit .333.
“All I can say is Nicklin puts those guys in great spots,” Cook said. “She’s setting the (outsides) really well right now. They can go up and hit anything they want. I give a lot of credit to Nicklin.”
Nebraska had a .337 hitting percentage. Maryland hit .143, with the Huskers coming up just short of holding a fourth straight opponent to under .100 hitting.
In the third set Nebraska rushed out to leads of 4-0 and 10-4.
“I just thought we broke them down and imposed our will on them,” Cook said. “We were pretty low-error and did some nice things.”
Hames had 27 assists and nine digs. Freshman libero Kenzie Knuckles had a team-best 11 digs.
Nebraska had 14 more kills (42-28), and 12 more digs (44-32) than Maryland. The Huskers posted seven blocks, led by four from Sweet and three each by Stivrins and Schwarzenbach.
Erika Pritchard had 10 kills for Maryland (11-9, 3-5 Big Ten).
Nebraska’s next match is on Friday at Indiana.
— Brent C. Wagner