SAN DIEGO — After winning the first two sets against Arizona handily, Nebraska ran into a roadblock in the third set.
The second-ranked Huskers hit minus-.081 as they committed 11 errors with just eight kills in the set. However, the Huskers quickly rebounded to earn a 25-17, 25-14, 17-25, 25-17 win at the San Diego State/University of San Diego Invitational Friday night.
NU coach John Cook said the players lost their focus in the third set and stopped playing point by point.
“Game 3 was just an immature team that thinks the game’s over,” Cook said on his postgame radio interview. “I had to remind our freshmen that you have to win three out of five. It’s not two out of three. It’s a little disappointing, but it’s a good lesson for us to learn that you just can’t let up and think it’s over.”
Injuries forced the Huskers (3-0) into using a less experienced lineup than usual. Nebraska is without sophomore outside hitter Capri Davis for the weekend, which led to freshman Madi Kubik playing in the front row. Also, late in the first set, sophomore middle blocker Callie Schwarzenbach twisted an ankle, leading freshman Riley Zuhn to make her Husker debut.
For as poor as the third set was, the Huskers dominated early on. After leading 15-14 in the first set, Nebraska scored 23 of the next 27 points to win the first set and take control of the second set 13-1. The Wildcats were struggling so much, coach Dave Rubio used both of his timeouts in the second set after falling behind 5-0.
However, after intermission, Arizona came out on fire. The Wildcats (2-2) ran off six straight points to take an 8-2 lead. They led by as much as 21-9 before the Huskers chipped away at the deficit, but ultimately fell short.
Lauren Stivrins epitomized the Huskers’ struggles in that set. The All-America middle blocker committed four hitting errors in the third set. On the night, she finished with six kills and six errors on 19 swings.
Cook said Arizona was putting up two blockers against her and instead of using the block to her advantage, Stivrins was trying to hit through it.
“Against two blockers, you can’t bounce balls. You have to stay loose and tool the block,” Cook said. “She was just trying to press, and she was trying a little too hard tonight.”
The Huskers righted the ship in the fourth set. Kubik, an outside hitter from West Des Moines Valley, stepped up and recorded seven of her 13 kills in the last set. She finished with a double-double, adding 13 digs. Jazz Sweet chipped in 11 kills at a .323 clip.
Lexi Sun played well in front of her hometown crowd with a match-high 15 kills. The junior outside hitter grew up 40 minutes away from the USD campus and had many friends and family in the crowd.
Sun added two aces and three blocks, including a solo stuff on match point.
“She did a nice job tonight, minus Game 3,” Cook said. “It was fun to see her competing hard tonight.”
The Huskers will take on a co-host, 25th-ranked San Diego, at 9 p.m. CDT Saturday.