Minneapolis — Moments after Nebraska lost the fourth set, Lauren Stivrins took control of the team.
The junior captain gave a fiery pep talk to teammates before the fifth set and helped change the momentum as the sixth-ranked Huskers regrouped and held off No. 7 Minnesota 25-22, 25-18, 19-25, 11-25, 15-3 Friday night.
Stivrins said assistant Jaylen Reyes was trying to talk strategy before she took over the huddle. She said after the Huskers (23-3, 15-2 Big Ten) played some of their best volleyball in the first two sets, they started to play timidly and not together.
“I was like ‘Guys, we are so much better than the way we’ve been playing,’ ” Stivrins said. “I just said the only reason we are losing is we are not doing the things we can control. We can control our energy, eye contact our communication, and that’s where we were lacking. We just had to get back to the basics and play Nebraska volleyball.”
Freshman outside hitter Madi Kubik carried the load for the Huskers in the fifth set. She had seven kills and two blocks in the set as Nebraska scored the final 11 points of the match.
Minnesota led 2-1 before a Kubik kill tied the deciding set. Megan Miller served the final 10 points, which included an ace.
“(Megan) was really stressing them,” coach John Cook said. “That was an amazing effort by her in the fifth game to do that. That is really hard to do, especially on the road.”
Kubik had six kills in each of the first two sets, then one over the next two. The West Des Moines product finished with 20 kills to go with 17 digs.
After two kills and four errors in the first set, Lexi Sun corrected course in the second set with seven kills and three aces to pace the Husker attack. The junior outside hitter finished with 18 kills and 10 digs.
After running a 4-2 system for most of the first two sets, the Gophers switched to a 5-1 with Kylie Miller as the lone setter. The UCLA transfer last played Oct. 19 against Illinois and was just cleared to return to action Thursday. Miller finished with 36 digs and 15 digs.
Minnesota (20-5, 14-3) responded by dominating the third and fourth games. The Gophers hit .415 in the two sets they won as their offense hit another gear. Alexis Hart had eight kills in the third set, and she finished with a team-high 18 kills and hit .400.
Stivrins finished with eight kills and four blocks, while Callie Schwarzenbach added seven kills on .600 hitting and four blocks.
Jazz Sweet recorded 12 kills while Nicklin Hames had a double-double (56 assists and 15 digs).
“It was a wild, up-and-down match,” Cook said. “It’s hard to play great for three hours. We played great for the first two games. They played great for three and four and we played great for the fifth.”
Nebraska (23-3, 15-2)..............25 25 19 11 15
At Minnesota (20-5, 14-3)........22 18 25 25 3
NU (kills-aces-blocks): Kubik 20-0-2, Sun 18-3-1, Sweet 12-0-2, Stivrins 8-0-4, Schwarzenbach 7-0-4, Hames 1-1-2, Zuhn 1-0-0, Miller 0-3-0, Densberger 0-1-0. Totals 67-8-15.
UM: Hart 18-0-1, Pittman 12-1-6, Samedy 11-0-8, Morgan 7-0-7, Rollins 5-0-3, Miller 2-1-0, Sheehan 1-0-0, Miyabe 0-0-1. Totals: 56-2-26.
Set assists: NU 64 (Hames 56, Knuckles 4, Sun 1, Stivrins 1, Drewnick 1, Densberger 1), UM 45 (Miller 36, Kilkelly 2, Samedy 2, McGraw 2, McMenimen 2, Rollins 1).