LINCOLN — After fighting through a few early lulls, the Nebraska volleyball team finally showed some glimpses of what it is capable of accomplishing.
In a pair of wins on Friday, the second-ranked Huskers finished in dominating fashion for sweeps of High Point (25-16, 25-22, 25-8) and Denver (25-23, 25-17, 25-12) at the Devaney Center in the Ameritas Players Challenge.
In the two matches, Nebraska recorded a combined 23 kills and just three errors in the third sets for a .454 hitting percentage.
“I always think it’s good if you play better as the match goes on,” coach John Cook said. “You figure things out, make adjustments and then start imposing our will on our opponents. That’s a really good skill to have.”
Against High Point, the Huskers (6-0) came out flat and lacked energy. Part of the problem was that their start time was delayed by an hour after the first match of the day between Denver and Loyola Marymount went five sets.
“This team has to understand they have to be focused and dialed in to play well,” Cook said. “They were going through the motions.”
Lexi Sun provided the spark for the Huskers as she recorded kills on 13 of 16 swings during the final two sets. She finished with 14 kills and a .650 hitting percentage.
“As a team, we started to get some more energy” in the second set, Sun said. “In the beginning, we started a little slow, which has been something we’re trying to work on ... we were trying to get better as the game goes on.”
Against Denver, Cook said, the energy was good to start, but the Huskers were too error-prone and let the Pioneers back in the match.
Nebraska appeared to be in control of the first set leading 18-13, but three hitting errors and five kills from Lydia Bartalo helped the Pioneers (6-2) close to 24-23. Lauren Stivrins finally ended the set with a kill. The Huskers had 13 errors in the set: eight hitting, three serving, one serve receive and one blocking.
As in the first match, the Huskers were at their best in the third set. They recorded blocks on five of the first 10 rallies and jumped out to an 8-2 lead. They never looked back as Denver hit minus-.161 in the set with 12 hitting errors.
“Compared to the game we played this morning, they were a lot faster offensively so we had to be a lot more disciplined and that showed in the last set,” said NU’s Callie Schwarzenbach, who had all three of her blocks in the third set.
The Huskers finished with 11 blocks in the match as the Pioneers hit minus-.021.
Cook said the key to the defensive success was shutting down Denver’s middle blockers. Against LMU, the Pioneers’ Tina Boe and Brianna Green combined for 17 kills, but they managed only three kills and committed four hitting errors against the Huskers.
“When you feel like you can’t get a kill, you’re getting blocked or you’re getting dug, our serves are going in and we’re not letting them off the hook, it feels suffocating over there and it gets very frustrating,” Cook said. “That’s what our team is capable of doing.”
The Huskers play Loyola Marymount Saturday at 1 p.m.
High Point (2-6)........16 22 8
At Nebraska............25 25 25
HPU (kills-aces-blocks): Salley 6-3-0, Rammelsberg 6-0-1, Mink 3-0-0, Sullivan 2-0-1, Idlebird 2-0-0, Miller 1-1-0, Doering 1-0-0, Kratzer 1-0-0, Bottomley 0-2-0. Totals: 22-6-2.
NU: Sun 14-0-3, Kubik 9-0-0, Stivrins 7-0-4, Schwarzenbach 6-0-4, Szabo 2-0-1, Hames 1-1-2, Sweet 1-0-1, Knuckles 0-1-0. Totals: 40-2-15.
Set assists: HPU 21 (Thornburg 11, Smith 6, Miggins 3, Bottomley 1), NU 36 (Hames 31, Knuckles 2, Drewnick 2, Sun 1).
Denver (6-2)..............23 17 12
At Nebraska (6-0).......25 25 25
DU (kills-aces-blocks): Bartalo 11-1-0, Winters 6-0-1, A. Green 4-0-0, B. Green 2-0-2, Mahoney 2-0-0, Poulter 1-0-1, Boe 1-0-1. Totals: 27-1-5.
NU: Kubik 7-1-3, Sun 7-0-3, Stivrins 6-0-6, Sweet 5-0-4, Hames 4-0-0, Schwarzenbach 3-0-3, Szabo 1-0-0. Totals: 33-1-19.
Set assists: DU 25 (Anderson 9, Poulter 7, Carrabine 4, Eddy 2, Feliciano 2, Boe 1), NU 30 (Hames 21, Knuckles 3, Miller 2, Drewnick 1, Zuhn 1).