IOWA CITY — John Cook and the Nebraska volleyball program said goodbye to Carver-Hawkeye Arena in a familiar fashion — with a sweep.
The seventh-ranked Huskers cruised to a 25-21, 25-18, 25-14 win over Iowa Saturday night.
The Huskers lost just one set in 11 matches in the arena, which opened in 1983, as they recorded their 28th sweep in 30 all-time meetings with Iowa. The Hawkeye volleyball team is scheduled to move into a new 5,100-seat arena in Coralville next fall.
Cook said the cavernous Carver-Hawkeye, which also hosts Iowa basketball and wrestling matches, creates issues with serving and passing because of the drafts.
“I’ve seen a lot of ugly volleyball in this gym,” Cook said. “Look how many times teams come in here and struggle. It’s hard to play clean, sharp volleyball in here.”
Much like previous matches in Iowa City, the play wasn’t pretty to start. In front of 4,737 fans, almost half of whom were Nebraska loyalists, the Huskers (20-3, 12-2 Big Ten) struggled to generate their own energy and were stagnant on offense as a result.
Fortunately for Nebraska, Lexi Sun stepped up and carried the load on offense early. The junior outside hitter had eight kills on 17 swings in the first set. Sun finished with a match-high 14 kills and a .444 hitting percentage.
“She’s hitting all the shots,” Cook said. “She’s using the whole court, the block, so she’s really hard to defend. They were trying to adjust defense on her and she just kept hitting a different shot every time they would adjust.”
The rest of the Huskers rounded into form as NU closed the first set on a 5-1 run after the score was tied at 20-all.
In the second set, Cook called time out after Jazz Sweet was called for going off the court before the ball was served to give Iowa a 3-1 lead. Following a setting error, the Huskers took over with an 11-2 run, with Iowa’s only points coming on NU service errors.
Nebraska eliminated any drama in the third set by jumping to a 9-3 lead. After recording six hitting errors in the first set, NU committed just four in the final two sets.
Iowa (9-16, 3-11) played five freshmen because of injuries and lineup changes. The Hawkeyes finished hitting .103, led by 12 kills from junior outside hitter Griere Hughes. NU won the battle at the net with nine blocks, while Iowa recorded just two.
The Huskers hit .420 as a team as all six starters finished above .300. Sweet and Madi Kubik each recorded nine kills, while Lauren Stivrins tallied eight kills and five blocks. Callie Schwarzenbach added five kills and four blocks.
“We got better as the match went on and I thought we did some good things,” Cook said. “We hit .400, so we can’t complain much about that.”
Nebraska (20-3, 12-2).....25 25 25
At Iowa (9-16, 3-11).......21 18 14
NU (kills-aces-blocks): Sun 14-2-3, Kubik 9-1-2, Sweet 9-0-3, Stivrins 9-0-5, Schwarzenbach 5-0-4, Hames 2-0-0, Knuckles 0-2-0. Totals: 48-5-17.
UI: Hughes 12-0-1, Hansen 6-0-1, Rients 5-0-0, Clayton 3-0-1, Buzzerio 1-3-0, Tubbs 1-0-1, Boyer 0-2-0. Totals: 28-5-4.
Set assists: NU 39 (Hames 36, Knuckles 2, Stivrins 1), UI 28 (Buzzerio 21, Johnston 3, Boyer 2, Tubbs 1).