Madi Kubik

Nebraska volleyball's Madi Kubik finished with a team-best 14 kills in a four-set loss against Stanford.

LINCOLN — Last December, Madi Kubik was just another fan sitting in the stands watching Nebraska battle Stanford for the national championship — albeit a fan with a little more interest.

Nine months later, Kubik was in the middle of the action in the rematch, as the Husker freshman from West Des Moines finished with a team-best 14 kills in a four-set loss. The match encapsulated her play so far this season with flashes of elite talent — five kills in the first set — countered with inconsistent miscues — 10 hitting errors and three serve receive errors.

Nebraska coach John Cook said he liked how Kubik competed against No. 2 Stanford as she served tough and took big swings.

“She was aggressive and she ended up making a lot of errors, but I thought she played her best match,” Cook said. “That was a good breakthrough for her. She’ll gain a lot of confidence from it.”

Kubik, the No. 4 recruit according to PrepVolleyball.com, has emerged as a key player for Nebraska (7-1) as it tries to reach the Final Four for the fifth straight year. Kubik and the top-ranked Huskers look to rebound from their first loss Saturday against Wichita State at 3 p.m. at the Devaney Center.

Against Stanford, the 6-foot-3 outside hitter powered the Husker attack in the first set. After trying to overpower and then tip over the Cardinal defense, she found success by tooling shots off the block and out of bounds. With her early success and NU’s trouble staying in rotation, Kubik finished with a team-high 46 attacks.

She said she enjoyed the big-match environment. After being blocked twice in the first set, she relied on her habits to find success.

“We practice it every single day — high line, tooling, using our different shots,” she said. “It was trusting our training and going after it and being aggressive.”

Setter Nicklin Hames said she was impressed with how fearlessly Kubik played.

“This is the Madi we’ve seen in practice,” Hames said following the Stanford loss. “She went after it tonight and I thought that was awesome.”

Kubik has started every match and is the first freshman to play all six rotations since Kadie Rolfzen debuted in 2013 and was named a third-team All-American.

It hasn’t been a completely smooth transition for Kubik. Despite being second on the team in kills and digs, she is hitting just .181. She has also been a target for other teams’ serves. She has received 164 serves this season — no other NU player has more than 100 — and allowed 14 aces.

After Kubik struggled to find a rhythm against Creighton and UCLA in the first two matches, Cook replaced her in the front row with sophomore Capri Davis. Kubik went back to playing all six rotations the following weekend as Davis was out with an abdominal injury.

Kubik said she has remained confident through her struggles and enjoyed her time as a Husker since enrolling in January.

“It’s really nice to have the best teammates because it makes it easy to go out there and trust that they have your back however you play,” she said. “Whatever is going on in the game, we can always look to each other and feel like everything is going to be OK.”

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