LINCOLN — When Kelsey Robinson's jump serve is working, Husker volleyball coach John Cook says, it's like a great pitcher with the changes in speed and location making opposing batters look foolish.
Robinson showed off the variety of her serving tricks Wednesday night to close out No. 13 Nebraska's 25-19, 25-21, 25-8 sweep of Iowa by delighting the Devaney Center crowd during a 7-0 serving run that included three aces.
Robinson's serving stretch, which could have included four aces in six serves if not for a questionable scoring decision that gave Iowa's Alex Lovell a ball-handling error, put the Huskers (14-4, 7-2 Big Ten) on top 21-4 and brought most of the 7,941 to their feet despite the lack of drama in the final set.
“It was fun because I feel like I've been struggling a little bit with my serve as far as consistency lately,” said Robinson, who also had 11 kills against the Hawkeyes. “It was fun to get a run and go for it, and ... get the crowd into it. It's always fun when they're standing and cheering. We've been working on the roll-shot change-up all season, so it was fun to get the ace finally.”
Cook said Robinson's variety of serves “really can get teams off-balance.”
“She floats, she jumps, she has tempos on her jump serve,” Cook said. “She rips it, she takes a little off.”
The Game 3 flourish finished off a fine bounce-back performance for several Huskers after a disappointing four-set home loss to Purdue on Saturday. After hitting .161 against the Boilermakers, freshman Kadie Rolfzen had 11 kills and added a team-high 12 digs for her fifth double-double of the season. Rolfzen had only two errors for a .500 hitting mark.
“It was great to just get our confidence back, and get our team chemistry back,” Rolfzen said. “Knowing we're able to come back from the Purdue game, let it go, and just play Nebraska volleyball.”
Cook said the coaching staff had put in a lot of work with Rolfzen in film study and on her mental approach since Saturday to rebuild her confidence after a rough night.
“She can be an All-American-level player when everything is right,” the coach said. “She's got to do it against the big teams, but she's shown at times she can play great.”
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Freshman libero Justine Wong-Orantes had 10 digs and drew praise for leading a floor defense that helped hold Iowa (10-11, 1-8) to a .110 attack percentage, the Hawkeyes’ lowest of the year in Big Ten play.
“She flipped a switch for us from last weekend into this weekend,” Robinson said, “and really did some big things as far as bringing energy and being a spark plug in the back row for us.”
Senior Rachael Bedell led Iowa with 14 kills, but the rest of the Hawkeyes combined for 15 kills and just as many errors.
Nebraska churned out comfortable but not dominant wins in the first two sets, with Iowa hitting .323 in Game 2.
But the Huskers seized control out of intermission, racing to a 7-1 lead in Game 3. Paced by a .556 attack percentage with one hitting error in the final set, Nebraska hit a season-high .388 for the match.
“We started playing Husker volleyball in Game 3, so that was good to see,” Cook said. “The way we played in Game 3 is the way we can play volleyball.”
Starting middle blocker Meghan Haggerty was “a little banged up” according to Cook and watched the match in street clothes from the bench. In her place, Melanie Keil made her first career start. The freshman from Berlin had played only briefly in three other matches, but put up four blocks and finished with a pair of kills and no errors Wednesday.
Kadie Rolfzen, Keil’s roommate, said the match finally gave Keil an opportunity to show her stuff and was a confidence booster after she’d played little in the first half of the season.
“I tell her all the time, ‘You’re great. You’re here at Nebraska,’ ” Rolfzen said. “I think just the fact she was given her chance, she took the most of it. She was nervous, of course, but she did great.”
NU’s other starting middle, sophomore Cecilia Hall, had seven kills on 12 errorless swings Wednesday and added four blocks. Nebraska outblocked Iowa 11-3, with Husker setter Mary Pollmiller also chipping in four stuffs.
The Huskers close the week with a match Friday at No. 24 Ohio State at 6 p.m.
Iowa (10-11, 1-8 Big Ten) …... 19 21 8
Nebraska (14-4, 7-2) ……….. 25 25 25
Iowa (kills-aces-blocks): Bedell 14-1-1, Lovell 7-1-0, Brobst 6-0-1, Dietz 1-0-2, O’Deen 1-0-0, Leppek 0-0-1. Totals 29-2-5.
Nebraska: Robinson 11-3-3, K. Rolfzen 11-1-1, A. Rolfzen 8-0-3, Hall 7-0-4, Pollmiller 4-1-4, Keil 2-0-4. Totals 43-6-19.
Set assists: I 26 (Dailey 11, Dietz 2, Yeager 2, Klostermann 11), NU 41 (K. Rolfzen 1, Pollmiller 33, Robinson 2, Ethridge 1, Wong-Orantes 4). Total digs: I 31 (Lovell 12), NU 45 (K. Rolfzen 12, Wong-Orantes 10).