The people across the United States who were up late Friday got to see the skill and all-out effort Kenzie Maloney shows on a volleyball court when her diving play into the bench during that night’s match against Penn State got her some TV time on ESPN’s top 10 plays of the night on “SportsCenter.”

Nebraska volleyball fans and coach John Cook having been seeing stuff like that for four years now from the Husker senior libero from Louisville, Kentucky, who always seems to fly into the picture to prevent the opponent from getting a kill.

“She’s been great her whole career here,” Cook said.

With 31 more digs in two matches this weekend, Maloney ranks No. 8 all-time in digs Nebraska for with 1,241.

After some time in the spotlight it was back to the court on Saturday for the Huskers, who quickly swept Rutgers 25-14, 25-12, 25-13.

That gave the eighth-ranked Huskers (18-6, 9-5 Big Ten) a much-needed weekend sweep. Nebraska got its biggest win of the season Friday against No. 7 Penn State in five sets.

It was a play during the first set of Friday’s match that got Maloney on ESPN. She dove into the bench to save a bad dig by the Huskers. Maloney kept the ball alive, and after a rally that lasted 50 seconds, Nebraska won the point on a block by Callie Schwarzenbach. When the rally was over, it was one of the loudest and longest cheers for one rally, and one individual effort, since the Huskers moved to the Devaney Sports Center. The Huskers led 20-16 at that point. But Nebraska couldn’t use that momentum to finish off the set, and lost 27-25.

The play left her teammates in awe.

“That just goes to show the type of player that Kenzie is,” Lauren Stivrins said. “She goes all-out for this team, and I think a lot of girls can learn from watching her play.”

ESPN had Maloney’s play No. 3 on its countdown. There aren’t many college volleyball players who get exposure like that.

“It was kind of weird,” said Maloney, of both the play and spotlight. “I really didn’t think I was that close to the chair, so I guess I’ll thank the chairs for the top 10. It was kind of cool. It was all over social media.”

Maloney said her ankle got caught in the chair, making it tough to get back on the court.

So why did she go after a ball that most coaches would say wasn’t worth the risk of injury?

“Honestly, because Coach told me not to,” Maloney said. “I wanted to prove him wrong that I could get it.”

Nebraska also had an improbable play make the ESPN top 10 list in 2014, when Kadie Rolfzen knocked a ball into the air with her leg and Mary Pollmiller got it across the net.

Maloney sets the tone for a defense that had another great weekend. The Huskers held Penn State to a .041 hitting percentage over the final two sets Friday, and Rutgers hit just .024 for the match. Nebraska had 32 blocks in the two matches, including eight more from Strivrins on Saturday.

Against the Scarlet Knights, Mikaela Foecke had 11 kills with an impressive .524 hitting percentage. Foecke didn’t have a single hitting error on 21 attempts. She also had four of the Huskers’ six ace serves.

This was a predictable win, coming against a Rutgers team that has won just one conference match in its five seasons in the Big Ten.

But Cook was didn’t want a letdown and went to his bag of tricks for motivation. For practice Saturday he printed off pictures of mouse traps and put them on the court and near the locker room, wanting the players to guard against a trap game and to stay focused.

“He told me that he always tries to get that done in everyone’s career, so I was lucky enough to see it today,” Maloney said.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7435 or bwagner@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSSportsWagner.


Sports reporter

Brent has worked at the Journal Star for 14 years. His beats include Nebraska volleyball, women's basketball and high school soccer and cross country.

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