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Orr gets starting nod in Nebraska's sweep of Iowa; Big Ten race cranks up

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John Cook, the Nebraska volleyball head coach, speaks at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln on Tuesday, November 15, 2022.

Madi Kubik had 14 kills to lead the Nebraska volleyball team to a 25-14, 25-17, 25-14 victory against Iowa on Friday in Coralville, Iowa.

Ally Batenhorst added 11 kills for the Huskers, and Lindsay Krause had 10 kills with a .471 hitting percentage.

No. 6 Nebraska swept Iowa for the sixth straight time, including twice in the past eight days.

The bigger news came soon after Nebraska’s match ended when unranked Maryland finished off a four-set upset win against No. 6 Ohio State to add some drama to the race for the Big Ten title.

Entering Friday’s matches, Ohio State was tied with Wisconsin for first place in the Big Ten, and the Buckeyes were sitting the best of the contenders with three of their final four matches at home.

But just like that, the conference title is still very much up for grabs with three matches to go. The Badgers are in first place with a 16-1 league record, with Nebraska and Ohio State tied for second at 15-2.

The Huskers now control their own destiny. Nebraska could clinch at least a share of the Big Ten title by winning their remaining three matches against Purdue, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Husker coach John Cook may have another lineup decision to make after giving setter Kennedi Orr another chance to start Friday. Orr played well and helped Nebraska finish with a .330 hitting percentage.

Nebraska stayed in its two-setter rotation, but with Nicklin Hames and Orr instead of Hames and Anni Evans.

Orr played at the end of Nebraska’s loss against Ohio State on Sunday. But Friday was her most extensive action in more than one month.

“(Orr) played well,” Cook said on the Huskers Radio Network. “We hit (.330) tonight. Kennedi played great defense tonight. She plays really good defense. She should build some confidence. She got Lindsay Krause going tonight.”

Hames finished with 15 assists, and Orr had 11. Nebraska had 17 more kills than Iowa, 44-27.

Lexi Rodriguez had a match-high 20 digs to help Nebraska hold Iowa to .093 hitting.

Nebraska began the season with Orr as the starting setter, but at times she was inconsistent with her setting.

But on Friday, Orr had a couple of great sets that the hitters converted for kills.

“The ball comes out faster with Kennedi,” Cook said. “That’s why we were trying to run a 5-1 (offense) earlier in the year. Kennedi has got great hands and she creates a different tempo.”

Orr’s fast tempo has the potential to help Nebraska’s hitters hit faster and harder, Cook said.

“Hopefully we’re going to build on this and Kennedi is just going to keep rising like a rocket,” he said.

Nebraska’s middle blockers still didn’t have great offensive nights, but Cook said part of that was Nebraska not being great at serve-receive. Bekka Allick had three kills on seven attempts, and Kaitlyn Hord had one kill on seven attempts.

Amiya Jones had eight kills for Iowa (8-20, 2-15 Big Ten).

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

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