Nebraska volleyball coach John Cook took a big-picture look at the Huskers’ three-set win against Indiana on Wednesday, and he found a lot to like.
For starters, of course, the Huskers got back in the win column after losing their first Big Ten Conference match this season last week against Minnesota. So the fifth-ranked Huskers improved to 15-2 overall, while staying in second place in the Big Ten with a 6-1 record.
And in the Huskers’ 25-13, 30-28, 25-11 victory, Nebraska had a .301 hitting percentage, while holding Indiana to .094. Nebraska met its match goal for its serve receive statistics, which didn’t occur against the Gophers.
“I thought we got better tonight,” Cook said.
Cook was feeling so good he didn’t even nitpick the second set, which was nearly a disaster, but actually helped the Huskers leave the arena feeling optimistic about the future.
In the second set, Nebraska allowed Indiana to erase a 17-9 deficit by winning 11 of the next 14 rallies to tie the match at 20.
Then the Huskers needed four set points to finally finish off the Hoosiers, as Indiana kept putting down kills or getting blocks. Nebraska finally won the final two points on an Indiana hitting error and a kill by Jazz Sweet for a 30-28 set win.
“I’m looking at the good things, that we found a way to win,” said Cook of the second set. “What happens with this team is I think we were up 16-8, and then we blow the lead and everybody gets tight. We made a bunch of errors right in a row. It started with Kenzie (Maloney) serving in the bottom of the net. I always tell them its two or three points when you serve in the bottom of the net.
“But we held our composure, we didn’t panic, we made some great plays. Indiana was making great plays, and we found a way to win.”
The set ended with nine ties and four lead changes, and was the highest-scoring set the Huskers played since a 30-28 set win at Purdue in 2015.
Right-side hitter Jazz Sweet said it felt good to win the set and should provide the Huskers some confidence. When Nebraska got challenged during the loss to Minnesota, it didn’t fight back like they did Wednesday.
“It was definitely good to see us push through and really fight for something right there, so I really enjoyed that,” Sweet said. “And we definitely carried that into set three.”
In the third set, the Huskers had another good start, with Lexi Sun serving a 5-0 run for a 10-1 lead, and Nebraska didn’t come close to letting the lead slip away this time. In the set, Nebraska had 16 kills on 27 attempts with no hitting errors for a .593 hitting percentage, and was a perfect 11-of-11 on forcing a side out.
For the match Sun had 11 kills, nine digs and four blocks, and Sweet had 11 kills while hitting .435 with five blocks.
Mikaela Foecke added 10 kills. Callie Schwarzenbach had nine blocks, and Kenzie Maloney had a career-best four ace serves.
In the first set, Nicklin Hames served a 9-0 run for a 20-6 lead that included one ace.
In the loss to Minnesota last week, Nebraska had a season-worst one ace serve, which Cook says is a sign that the Huskers weren’t being aggressive. Against Indiana, the Huskers served seven aces.
“Our goal for today was attack, and so we were attacking from the service line, attacking by hitting, attacking with everything we were doing,” Hames said.
Indiana (11-7, 2-5 Big Ten) got seven kills each from Deyshia Lofton and Hayden Huybers.
Now the Huskers enter maybe their toughest stretch of the season. Starting with Saturday’s match at No. 9 Penn State, each of the next four matches is on the road, including three against top-10 teams.