Initially, after the Wisconsin volleyball team lit up Nebraska with a .376 hitting percentage in the Badgers’ sweep against the Huskers recently, Nebraska coach John Cook said it was really hard to see.
With more time to reflect, Cook called it humiliating.
But look at the fifth-ranked Huskers now, quickly back to being known as a team that plays great defense after a 25-21, 25-22, 25-14 win against Michigan on Sunday at the Devaney Sports Center.
That completes a two-win weekend where the Huskers (13-2, 5-1 Big Ten) held both Michigan State and Michigan to its worst hitting matches of the season. Michigan State managed just a .038 hitting percentage in a four-set loss against Nebraska on Friday.
Then on Sunday, Nebraska held one of the best offenses in the Big Ten to a season-worst .019 hitting percentage. Michigan’s previous low was .214 against Dayton.
Nebraska outblocked Michigan 11-3. Nebraska’s Lexi Sun had a career-best seven blocks, Callie Schwarzenbach added five blocks and Madi Kubik had three.
These were two matches Nebraska should have won, against unranked teams at home with one day of rest between them.
Michigan and Michigan State aren’t anything like the offenses Nebraska will face against Minnesota and Wisconsin on the road in November. But for Nebraska, it was relieving to get back to playing great defense.
“When I look at the weekend overall I think the Huskers got tired of hearing about what Wisconsin hit against them, and they had a great defensive effort Friday night and (Sunday),” Cook said.
Michigan outside hitter Paige Jones was averaging 4.69 kills per set in conference matches. She got just seven kills and hit .034 against the Huskers. Nebraska had three players with double-digit digs. Kubik had 11, and Kenzie Knuckles and Sun had 10 apiece.
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“I thought there were very few clean kills tonight from Michigan. We pretty much touched it with our block or our defense,” Cook said.
Nebraska had 40 kills, and Michigan just 26.
Nebraska really got rolling in the third set. At one stretch in the middle of the set, Sun had a solo block on back-to-back rallies, and then Kubik did the same later in the set.
Those solo blocks are plays where almost everything is set up for the hitter to win, but Sun and Kubik didn’t let them.
“Anytime you make a solo block that is such a deflation for the other team because the whole setter’s goal is to get a hitter one-on-one,” Cook said. “The hitter’s job is to put the ball away. If you’re one-on-one you should put the ball away. … And anytime you can get a solo block it’s literally probably worth two points.”
Sun had another great match with a match-high 12 kills on .400 hitting. In a close second set, Sun came up big for the Huskers with three kills and a block in the final six rallies as the Huskers won it 25-22.
The kills that Sun feels the best about are the ones where she’s being aggressive, which didn’t happen as much last season.
“Coach (Cook) stresses just being aggressive all of the time, and he wants us to take big swings and get up there and take rips and swing high hands, so I definitely think it’s when I get up and trust my training and swing high (that I feel the best),” Sun said.
Lauren Stivrins had 11 kills on .647 hitting for her fifth straight match hitting better than .550.
Knuckles had three ace serves. Nebraska had a bad start to the first set when it gave up a 7-0 run, but Knuckles set the Huskers up to win the set when she served a 6-0 run that included two aces.