Huskers Storm Past No. 5 Minnesota In Sweep

Photo Courtesy: Maddie Washburn, Nebraska Communications

The fourth-ranked Nebraska volleyball team bounced back from its first loss of the season to hand No. 5 Minnesota its first loss of the season in a 25-17, 25-15, 25-22 sweep on Sunday afternoon at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.

The Huskers (7-1) rebounded from Friday’s 3-1 loss by hitting .300 on Sunday and holding Minnesota to a .153 hitting percentage. Nebraska (7-1) posted its first win over an AVCA top-five ranked team since the 2018 NCAA Semifinal win over No. 3 Illinois. It was the first sweep by the Huskers over a top-five team since Sept. 29, 2017 against No. 3 Minnesota.

After being blocked 20 times by the Golden Gophers on Friday, the Huskers were blocked just five times on Sunday. The Huskers had 43 kills with a season-low 10 attacking errors. Lexi Sun led the way with 12 kills and a team-high 13 digs, and she hit .321 for the match. Madi Kubik had 10 kills and 12 digs, and Lauren Stivrins had eight kills on .400 hitting. Kayla Caffey played her best match as a Husker with seven kills and seven blocks while hitting .455.

The Huskers, who didn’t trail in sets oen and two, were aced six times on Friday night but yielded no aces to the Golden Gophers (9-1) in Sunday’s rematch. Meanwhile NU had four aces of its own, including two by Keonilei Akana. Kenzie Knuckles had an ace and posted 10 digs.

Nicklin Hames had 33 assists and eight digs and dropped a pair of kills. Riley Zuhn had four kills and four blocks.

Taylor Landfair had 14 kills to lead Minnesota.

Set 1: Sun connected for three kills on her first four attacks to spark NU to a 5-1 lead. Kills by Kubik, Caffey and Zuhn, followed by a block by Sun and Caffey made it 9-2 Huskers after a 4-0 run. Minnesota got within 16-12 but committed a service error, and Kubik terminated again before a Caffey/Zuhn block made it 19-12 Huskers. Nebraska continued its strong play with kills by Stivrins and Sun that helped the lead grow to nine at 23-14, and the Huskers took the set 25-17. NU hit .333 and held Minnesota to .147 in set one.

Set 2: After being haunted by slow starts in Friday night’s match, the Huskers came out on fire in the first two sets on Sunday, this time taking a 9-4 lead courtesy of a pair of blocks by Caffey and Zuhn and two kills by Caffey. An ace by Akana and kills by Stivrins and Sun made it 12-6 Huskers. Stephanie Samedy helped swing the Gophers within two at 14-12, but Kubik sided out for the Huskers, and Caffey and Zuhn teamed up for another block before an ace by Sun made it 18-13 Huskers. The lead went to six at 21-15 after another ace by Akana, and Stivrins, Kubik and Hames tallied kills as the Huskers pulled away to a 25-15 win. The Huskers hit .433 in the second set, while Minnesota hit .118. To that point in the match NU was out-hitting the Gophers .379 to .132 and had been blocked just one time.

Set 3: Minnesota took its first lead of the match at 7-6, but a Gopher service error followed by an ace by Knuckles put the Huskers back up 8-7. However two kills and a block by Minnesota put the Gophers back on top 10-8. Nebraska answered with a 4-1 run to regain a 13-12 lead, and the Huskers led 15-14 at the media timeout after Caffey’s seventh block, this one with Sun. With the score tied 17-17, Kubik blasted a kill and Minnesota hit out two times in a row to put NU up 20-17. But the Gophers came out of a timeout and posted a pair of kills and a block to tie the score at 20-20. After a Husker timeout, Kubik terminated for sideout and the Huskers won a challenge to make it 22-21 Big Red. Hames connected with Stivrins for a 23-22 Husker lead, and Sun gave NU match point at 24-22. NU finished the sweep with Anni Evans setting Sun for the match-winning kill.