The Nebraska volleyball team that got rolling during a three-set win against Maryland on Friday is one of its best versions because it can get kills from every position.
Nebraska had four players with at least seven kills in a 25-20, 25-15, 25-18 win at the Devaney Sports Center.
Sixth-ranked Nebraska (24-4, 16-3 Big Ten) had a .359 hitting percentage and held Maryland to .167 hitting. That was Nebraska’s fourth-highest hitting percentage of the year.
Nebraska was getting kills at a great clip from every spot. Outside hitter Lexi Sun had 10 kills with a .304 hitting percentage, and the Huskers’ other outside hitter, Madi Kubik, had nine kills and hit .375.
Right-side hitter Jazz Sweet had 10 kills on 19 swings without an error to hit .526.
Middle blocker Lauren Stivrins had kills on seven of her first nine attempts of the match. She finished with seven on .583 hitting. The other middle blocker, Callie Schwarzenbach, had four kills but hit just .077. Setter Nicklin Hames added three kills.
Nebraska’s good passing allowed Hames to get the hitters a lot of high-percentage swings.
“Whenever you’re getting Nicklin in a good spot, she’s very good at giving equal distribution,” said Nebraska coach John Cook.
If Nebraska’s defense can get back to its great form from earlier in the season, along with that offensive balance, it would make Nebraska a tough team when the NCAA Tournament begins next week.
“It makes it hard to defend, and you can’t gang up on people,” Cook said.
After Maryland kept it close to start the first set, Nebraska was in control at the finish of the set, winning six of the final nine rallies. Then Nebraska had a .484 hitting percentage in the second set.
Cook felt like Nebraska got much better after the first part of the opening set.
“We looked like we were still at Thanksgiving to start that match, but we played our way into that a little bit and got going and did some nice things,” Cook said.
Nebraska’s final regular-season match is Saturday against Ohio State. Without a major upset, the best Nebraska can finish is a tie for second place in the Big Ten.
Wisconsin and Penn State are tied for first place at 17-2. Penn State has a tough match on Saturday against Minnesota, while Wisconsin plays last-place Rutgers.
Nebraska would also like to avoid a loss that could drop the Huskers from what should be a top-eight overall seed for the NCAA Tournament.
“We want to get a good spot in the tournament,” Sweet said.
Cook also wants Nebraska to play with a sense of urgency that it'll need to advance in the tournament.
“If you have a bad night next week, night, night, it’s over,” Cook said
Ohio State is the only team to beat Wisconsin in league play, doing so in four close sets, 29-27 25-20, 20-25, 26-24 on Nov. 8. Ohio State (15-16, 8-11 Big Ten) won’t make the tournament but can get another big win.
When Ohio State beat Wisconsin, the Buckeyes had 10 ace serves.
“It’s hard to say what Ohio State does, really, because they change lineups,” Cook said. “They play about 15 people, they mix their setters, they mix everybody. They can confuse you, so you got to be really disciplined and not let their chaos affect you. They got some great arms, and some great players, and they caught Wisconsin at the right time and got them.”
With the high school volleyball season finished, Nebraska is having a big recruiting weekend. Almost all of Nebraska’s three signees for next year, and six commits for the 2021 class, attended Friday’s match. There were so many in the group that they took up most of the bench while watching warmups.
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