LINCOLN — Against the top blocking team in the Big Ten, Nebraska emerged as the winner in the battle at the net.
Michigan State entered the match averaging 2.81 blocks per set, which ranked 13th nationally, but the Spartans were no match for Nebraska.
The fifth-ranked Huskers recorded 14 blocks, compared to nine for Michigan State, to earn a 21-25, 25-15, 25-14, 25-22 win Friday night at the Devaney Center.
“We held a Big Ten team to .038 (hitting) so that’s pretty nice,” NU coach John Cook said. “They have a lot of physical hitters and we did a really good job of following the game plan and shutting them down. Defense won it for us tonight.”
MSU (11-4, 2-3) finished with a season-low hitting percentage, eclipsing its previous mark of .126 in a sweep against Penn State.
Sophomore Callie Schwarzenbach led NU with seven stuffs, while junior Lauren Stivrins added six. Outside hitters Jazz Sweet and Capri Davis were a part of five blocks each.
“Our team did a great job of being aggressive on defense and I think that showed when we were winning all the long rallies,” Stivrins said. “It was nice to see that fight in our team defensively because we have been struggling with that recently.”
Behind the block, four Huskers finished with double-digit digs, led by 21 from freshman libero Kenzie Knuckles. Sophomore Nicklin Hames finished with a double-double with 46 assists and 14 digs.
The Huskers’ defense was at its best in the final two sets as they recorded five blocks in each set.
On offense, Sweet paced the Huskers with 16 kills, while Lexi Sun and Stivrins had 13 each.
The Huskers (12-2, 4-1) controlled the match except for a nine-point stretch in the first set. With NU leading 20-17, the Spartans went on an 8-1 run to close out the set. Meredith Norris, who finished with a team-best 11 kills, terminated three attacks during that run.
Cook said he challenged the Huskers to take the momentum back and NU responded by scoring the first six points of the second set with Hames at the service line. MSU recovered and cut its deficit to 13-10, but the Huskers pulled away with the final seven points of the set, which was capped off by an ace from Madi Kubik.
The Huskers finished with three aces, but more importantly stressed Michigan State by limiting its options on offense.
“We got in a really nice rhythm serving and putting pressure on them and moving it around,” Cook said. “That allowed us to have our blocking defense have a big impact.”
Michigan State (11-4, 2-3)..........25 15 14 22
at Nebraska (12-2, 4-1).............21 25 25 25
MSU (kills-aces-blocks): Norris 11-1-2, Gros 9-0-6, Johnson 4-0-4, Chronowski 4-0-0, Swartz 4-0-3, Kabengele 3-0-0, Poljan 2-0-3, Monks 1-0-0, McLean 0-2-0. Totals: 38-3-18.
NU: Sweet 16-0-5, Sun 13-0-1, Stivrins 13-1-6, Kubik 5-1-0, Schwarzenbach 4-0-7, Davis 2-0-5, Drewnick 0-1-0, Hames 0-0-2. Totals: 53-3-26.
Set assists: MSU 35 (Alford 15, Shklyar 15, Cox 3, Swartz 1, McLean 1), NU 50 (Hames 46, Kubik 2, Sun 1, Knuckles 1).