It took some time for the Nebraska volleyball team to find a rhythm in Friday's NCAA first-round match against Hofstra at the Devaney Sports Center.
That included Mikaela Foecke. The 6-foot-3 senior outside hitter didn't record a kill until midway through the second set, and yet finished with an impressive stat line: nine kills on 22 swings, six blocks and two service aces.
Foecke sealed the Huskers' sweep with a back-row kill.
"Mikaela started off a little slow tonight but she got it rolling," NU coach John Cook said. "It took us awhile. Hofstra sets a lot of balls behind the setter and their right-side hitter (Aisha Skinner) started off on fire tonight and just the tempo and everything was way slower than what we're used to and Mikaela was early. Once she made that adjustment … she started blocking her."
Foecke has been a steady force for the Huskers for four seasons, but she seems to take it up a notch during the postseason. It showed again Friday when the two-time Final Four MVP accounted for seven of the Huskers' 17 kills in the third set.
"Typical Mikaela, turning up the heat as the match went on," Cook said.
Foecke's six blocks tied a career high, and her two ace serves pushed her NCAA career total to 20, the second-highest mark in school history.
Shaking off the nerves: Friday's match marked the NCAA Tournament debut for four Husker freshmen — Hames, middle blocker Callie Schwarzenbach, defensive specialist Megan Miller and outside hitter Capri Davis.
Cook said he could tell the group was a little nervous.
"There's a different feel when you get to the tournament," he said. "But I thought they really worked through it."
Hames finished with 30 set assists, while Schwarzenbach had three kills and four blocks.
"It's good to get this first one out of the way," Cook added. "It's just like the very first week (of the regular season) we played Florida. Everybody was really nervous and we were just out of it, and the next day we come back and play great. I just think you get it out of the way and now we can go on and focus on playing a great match tomorrow. Get those nerves out."
Sunny debut: Sophomore outside hitter hitter Lexi Sun made her NCAA Tournament debut as a Husker, and she came out swinging. The Texas transfer had five first-set kills, and finished with nine for the match.
"I think it's more for everybody to kind of get going and for us to use all of our hitters and all of our weapons so the blockers don't really know where we're going," Sun said. "It's important for everyone to get going the first game and keep their block guessing."
Missouri coach knows Lincoln: Wayne Kreklow has been to Lincoln numerous times, guiding Missouri in several matches at the NU Coliseum when the Huskers and Tigers were in the Big 12.
On Saturday, Nebraska and Missouri will be meeting for the first time since NU left for the Big Ten in 2011.
"It was kind of a bittersweet draw," Kreklow said of the Tigers coming to Lincoln. "It was cool to come back here again because it's been a long time, but you've got to play them probably, too."
Are these Huskers similar to the NU teams Kreklow faced in the Big 12?
"Oh, yeah," he says. "Big, physical, talented."
A basketball and volleyball guy: Kreklow has a very intriguing bio.
He was a standout basketball player at Drake before winning an NBA championship ring with the Boston Celtics in 1980-81.
So how did he get involved with volleyball?
"It's a long story," Kreklow said. "I don't know how much time you've got."
The short story: Kreklow played high school volleyball in Wisconsin and when he wasn't playing basketball at Drake, he was playing for club teams on campus.
Kreklow later coached basketball at Central Decatur High School in Iowa in the late 1980s before going to Missouri to work on his master's degree. It was there when Kreklow joined Missouri as grad assistant in 1990, meeting his wife, Susan, along the way.
"I've been there ever since," Kreklow said.
Susan Kreklow was Missouri's head coach from 2000-04. The Kreklows switched job titles in 2005 and Wayne has been leading the Tiger program since then.
Reach the writer at 402-473-2639 or email@example.com. On Twitter @LJSSportsGrell.
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