LINCOLN — When Morgan Broekhuis is all smiles, it usually means good things for the Nebraska volleyball team. And the junior opposite hitter's postgame grin Friday was a telltale sign the Huskers just wrapped up a breezy conference win.
Broekhuis led No. 3 Nebraska with 12 kills, bouncing back from a rough match the team's last time out, as the Huskers defeated Wisconsin 25-22, 25-15, 25-20 in front of 4,112 fans at the NU Coliseum.
Hayley Thramer and Hannah Werth each added 11 kills for Nebraska (14-2, 6-1 Big Ten), which had a great night offensively in rolling to the team's sixth straight win. The Huskers hit .396 and handcuffed the Badgers with a season-best seven service aces, including three from senior Gina Mancuso.
Broekhuis, who was benched in the middle of the Huskers' five-set comeback at last-place Indiana last Saturday, was hot from the start with six kills in the first game against Wisconsin (14-6, 2-5).
The Badgers put a scare into Nebraska last year by taking the first set of the teams' meeting in the Coliseum 25-12 before NU won the next three games, a hole Broekhuis said Nebraska was determined not to have to crawl out of Friday.
“Coach put up on the scoreboard yesterday at practice we got beat 25-12 in the first game here last year,” Broekhuis said. “That was kind of a motivation for all of us to come out swinging this game.”
Broekhuis paced the offense in the opening set, which Nebraska held on to win despite never feeling comfortable. The Huskers led 20-19 but pulled away thanks to a 3-0 run that included a Mancuso ace and a solo block by Werth on Julie Mikaelsen, the Badgers' 6-foot-3 opposite hitter.
Often matched against a single blocker Friday, Broekhuis delivered an efficient performance with two errors on 27 swings — a .370 attacking mark.
“This was a big match,” Nebraska coach John Cook said. “I think Morgan responded because it was a big match, and we need her.
“(Wisconsin was) getting her one-on-one,” Cook said. “She's got to kill the ball when she's one-on-one, and in a lot of her swings, she was one-on-one tonight.”
It was Mancuso's serving that essentially ended the second game soon after it began. The All-American from Papillion-La Vista has struggled serving at times this year, but added two more aces in serving an 8-0 run that put NU on top 9-1. The Huskers hit .556 in the second set with one error in 27 attacks, led by Thramer, who put down five kills on eight swings.
“That was a real confidence-booster,” Mancuso said. “Coach harps on us all the time that we have to be aggressive with our serve. I think we train that really well. I think at the beginning of the season I didn't really have a good serve, so that's something I've really been focusing on. That was really fun to be doing something like that.”
Cook pointed out that Mancuso led the Big 12 in aces her freshman year. With an improved delivery, it gives the Huskers a slew of weapons from the service line. Setter Lauren Cook and libero Lara Dykstra each added a pair of aces Friday.
“When you have to pass Lauren and Gina back-to-back and then Dykstra,” John Cook said, “those are three really good servers.”
Werth and Mancuso combined for nine kills and a .667 hitting mark in the third game as Nebraska pulled away late after the teams were tied at 15.
Crystal Graff had 10 kills to lead Wisconsin, which has lost five of six matches, with each defeat coming against a ranked team in the conference.
The win allowed NU to keep pace with No. 10 Minnesota for second place in the Big Ten heading into Sunday's 2 p.m. match with the Gophers. Minnesota beat Iowa in four sets in Iowa City on Friday night. Both Nebraska and Minnesota are one game behind No. 1 Penn State, which stayed unbeaten in conference play at 7-0 with a sweep of No. 17 Purdue on Friday.
“The Big Ten is competitive,” Broekhuis said. “Teams are winning. Teams are losing. You've got to show up to play every night. We've got to play every game with that mentality to defend our Big Ten title.”
Wisconsin (14-6, 2-5) ............. 22 15 20
At Nebraska (14-2, 6-1) ................ 25 25 25
UW (kills-aces-blocks): Graff 10-0-0, Mikaelsen 6-1-0, Mitchell 5-3-3, Chapman 5-0-0, Ording 4-0-1, Thomas 2-0-3, Hickey 0-2-0.
NU: Broekhuis 12-0-1, Thramer 11-0-6, Werth 11-0-3, Mancuso 8-3-2, Cook 4-2-0, Haggerty 2-0-0, Dykstra 0-2-0, McNeal 0-0-1.
Set assists: UW 29 (Thomas 26), NU 44 (Cook 37).
Contact the writer: