The objective for the Nebraska volleyball team on Saturday was to win its match against Wichita State, and that happened.
After a slow start to the match, Nebraska was in control over most of the final 2 ½ sets in a 25-17, 25-10, 25-15 victory at the Devaney Sports Center.
But when you’re the No. 1 team in the country, at least for a few more days, you aspire to play better from the start. So call it a not-feel-good win for the Huskers, Nebraska coach John Cook said.
“We took care of business today, but it didn’t feel as good to me as the scores indicated and I just thought we were a little sloppy today,” Cook said. “We keep making mental errors, so we’re going to have to get that fixed."
This was Nebraska’s first match since losing its first match of the season on Wednesday against No. 2 Stanford.
Nebraska finished the nonconference season with an 8-1 record, and will open Big Ten Conference play Friday at No. 19 Illinois.
What has already been a season filled with great matches and surprising upsets in college volleyball got a few more of those this weekend. On Saturday, No. 12 BYU beat Stanford in four sets, with the Cougars winning the final three sets for an 18-25, 25-22, 25-23, 31-29 victory. That’s the second loss for an undoubtedly talented Stanford team.
Stanford had not lost a match at home since 2016. BYU, which made the NCAA Final Four last season, has beaten Stanford twice in the past two years.
And on Friday No. 6 Pittsburgh swept No. 4 Penn State, giving Pitt its first win against Penn State since 1987. On Wednesday, unranked Rice beat No. 3 Texas, breaking a string of 36 consecutive losses against the Longhorns dating to 1982. It also marked the first time Rice had ever defeated a top-10 program.
So you can look at everything that has already happened this season two ways. One, it’s good to win. Two, even if you’re one of the good teams like Nebraska, you’re going to have to prepare and play well or you could get beaten.
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“We got to play the best team in the country — potentially — or at least they were Wednesday night,” said Cook of the Nebraska-Stanford match. “They were really good. That was one of the best teams I’ve ever seen, I think.
“But it's college volleyball and I’ve been telling you there is a lot of parity across the board and there is a lot of good teams. I mean Rice beats Texas, San Diego beats USC. So there is just a lot of good teams and you got to be ready to go every night. I think we should be well prepared for the Big Ten, and it’s just going to be up to our team what kind of mindset they go into the Big Ten next weekend with.”
Right-side hitter Jazz Sweet led the Huskers with 11 kills on a .435 hitting percentage on Saturday. Sweet has had some really good matches this year, but also ones when she struggled.
One of the factors for when she’s killing balls and when she’s not is how many good sets she can get from Nicklin Hames, Cook said.
“If we get Jazz in a good spot, she can do some good things,” Cook said. “And then when we’re under stress a little bit and she doesn’t get great sets, then it’s harder for her to kill the ball. Nicklin set her great tonight. Probably the best match of the year that Nicklin set Jazz. She got her some really good swings with really good tempo.”
The Nebraska defense held Wichita State to a .000 hitting percentage for the match by having 10 blocks and 42 digs. Lauren Stivrins had six blocks, and Sweet four.
Nebraska was playing with a new lineup because starting libero Kenzie Knuckles was not available after getting hit in the head on Wednesday. She should be able to return for the next match. Sophomore Megan Miller started at libero, and had a team-best 14 digs and one ace serve.
Nebraska kept hitting out early in the first set, helping Wichita State take a 12-9 lead. But by winning 11 of the next 13 rallies Nebraska quickly regained control and a 20-14 lead.
Kara Brown, the Wichita State starting libero and a Lincoln East graduate, had nine digs.
Wichita State (3-9) played a challenging nonconference season, with losses against Nebraska, No. 3 Texas, No. 8 Penn State, No. 13 BYU and No. 15 Creighton.