LINCOLN — After putting up a career night, freshman Madi Kubik had a lot of thanks to give to her teammates.
Kubik tallied 22 kills as fifth-ranked Nebraska defeated No. 20 Purdue 25-21, 25-16, 23-25, 25-15 Wednesday night at the Devaney Center.
The 6-foot-3 outside hitter started by thanking setter Nicklin Hames for putting her in one-on-one position for easy kills. She also gave props to middle blockers Lauren Stivrins and Callie Schwarzenbach for taking away blockers to open up the net.
“My teammates are amazing, and Nicklin was putting up so many hittable balls,” she said. “It’s easy to play next to them.”
Stivrins started the match quickly with two kills in the first five rallies. With the Purdue block focusing on NU’s All-America middle blocker, Kubik went off.
Kubik’s previous best performance was 14 kills against Stanford, which she surpassed early in the third set. The West Des Moines, Iowa, product finished with 51 attacks and a .314 hitting percentage.
“Madi was hitting great tonight and I was finding her in a lot of spots and she was taking great swings out of system as well,” Hames said. “When they are hot like that you keep giving them the ball. They weren’t stopping her.”
NU coach John Cook said many opponents will try to send two blockers to slow down Stivrins, who finished with 10 kills and hit .375, and as a result, the Huskers’ outside hitters need to make other teams pay.
“(Kubik) was carrying a big load and she was feeling it tonight,” Cook said. “Nicklin was setting her really well. It was fun to watch that.”
Kubik’s most dominant stretch came to start the second set as she recorded four kills to help NU (14-2, 6-1 Big Ten) take a 9-5 advantage. NU coasted early as it hit a combined .352 in the first two sets.
However, the Huskers fell apart in the third set and couldn’t close out a sweep. NU led 10-5 when Purdue (11-5, 3-4) responded with a 6-1 run to tie the set. Kubik had a chance to give NU the lead with the set tied 18-all, but her tip shot to the open court was wide. That set off a 6-2 Purdue run that included four Husker hitting errors. NU turned away three set points, but couldn’t complete the rally.
“We kind of shot ourselves in the foot in the third set,” Hames said. “We made some errors we shouldn’t have and let them back in it. We weren’t aggressive towards the end of that.”
The Huskers responded with their best set as they hit .536 with just two errors in the fourth. Junior outside hitter Lexi Sun hit five kills on six swings in the set. Sun finished with a double-double of 11 kills and a team-high 15 digs.
Hames also recorded with a double-double with 48 assists and 11 digs to go with four kills.
For the third straight match, Nebraska’s defense held an opponent under .100 hitting, as the Boilermakers finished with a season-low .099. Caitlyn Newton led Purdue with 17 kills but also had 11 errors.
“It’s a pretty great accomplishment to be able to do that,” Cook said. “We want to be a great defensive team, and they’ve bought in.”
Purdue (11-5, 3-4)...............21 16 25 15
At Nebraska (14-2, 6-1)........25 25 23 25
Purdue (kills-aces-blocks): Bush 2-1-0, Newton 17-1-0, Cuttino 7-0-0, Mohler 7-1-0, Cleveland 4-1-0, Ellis 5-0-0, Otec 0-1-0. Totals 42-5-20.
NU: Hames 4-1-0, Kubik 22-0-0, Sun 11-1-0, Sweet 8-0-0, Schwarzenbach 4-0-1, Stivrins 10-1-0, Knuckles 0-1-0, Miller 0-1-0. Totals 59-5-15.
Set assists: Purdue 41 (Bush 35, Hornung 3, Otec 2, Schermerhorn 1), NU 58 (Hames 48, Knuckles 6, Kubik, Sun, Stivrins, Miller 1).