BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Nebraska’s match with Indiana had all the makings of a trap. And for a while, it looked like the Huskers might fall for it.
The Hoosiers entered Friday’s match with a 1-7 Big Ten record and had lost 35 straight sets against the Huskers dating to 2012. Plus, Nebraska had a match against a rated opponent in 24 hours.
Indiana came out firing and took advantage of a disjointed Husker offense and won the first set. However, the Hoosiers couldn’t sustain their strong start as fifth-ranked Nebraska regrouped and dominated the rest of the way for a 22-25, 25-13, 25-16, 25-14 victory in front of 2,105 fans at Wilkinson Hall.
“I’m not sure we were mentally ready to play at the level that Indiana was playing at,” Nebraska coach John Cook said during his postgame radio show. “We had no answer for them. They played as good of a Game 1 against us as anyone has played against us. But the thing is, you have to be able to play good for a long period of time in this conference.”
With the first set tied at 15-15, Indiana (12-10, 1-8) started a run of four straight points to take control. Sophomore outside hitter Breana Edwards recorded five kills during the Hoosiers’ final 10 points. Edwards and Kendall Beerman powered the Hoosiers with 12 of their 13 kills in the set.
The Huskers struggled out of the gate with nine hitting errors as they hit just .150 in the set.
“They took it to us and we didn’t have any answers,” Cook said. “We pressed and made errors and then Game 2 we stressed them with our serve. We started hitting the ball in the court and turned some points on them and turned the momentum and rolled from there.”
In the second set, Nebraska (16-2, 8-1) jumped out to a 6-2 lead and never looked back. Freshman outside hitter Madi Kubik got going with five kills. Kenzie Knuckles added three aces, and Lauren Stivrins finished with a flurry as she went kill-block-kill to close out the set.
Indiana hung with NU early in the third, but with the set tied at 9, the Huskers started a 13-3 run to pull away. The fourth set was the same recipe as the Huskers used scoring streaks of 6-0 and 7-0 to take an 18-8 advantage as they cruised to their fifth straight win.
“It’s hard to be perfect and great every night, but we found a way to work through it,” Cook said.
Stivrins posted a season-high 17 kills as she led the Huskers in attacks for the first time during her career with 33. The junior middle blocker hit .394 and added six blocks.
Three other Huskers also reached double-figure kills: Jazz Sweet (14), Lexi Sun (13) and Kubik (10). After a slow start, Sun finished with a well-rounded stat line as she added a team-high 17 digs and three ace serves.
Nicklin Hames, who sat out this week’s practices with an illness, finished with a double-double with 51 assists and 12 digs to go with five blocks.
For Indiana, Edwards and Beerman were the only players with much success on the attack. Edwards had 15 kills, while Beerman added 10. The rest of the Hoosiers combined for 12 kills and 11 errors as Indiana finished hitting .100.
The Huskers are back in action Saturday night as the play at No. 20 Purdue, a team they beat in four sets on Oct. 16.
“It’s going to be a great test for us,” Cook said. “Purdue is going to be fired up for us. We are going to have to be prepared to give a great effort.”
Nebraska (16-2, 8-1)..........22 25 25 25
at Indiana (12-10, 1-8).......25 13 16 14
NU (kills-aces-blocks): Stivrins 17-0-6, Sweet 14-0-1, Sun 13-3-1, Kubik 10-0-3, Schwarzenbach 5-0-5, Hames 3-0-5, Knuckles 0-3-0. Totals: 62-6-21.
IU: Edwards 15-1-0, Beerman 10-0-1, Lofton 5-0-3, Huybers 3-0-1, Armer 2-0-4, Sloan 1-0-1, Malloy 1-0-1, Fitzner 0-1-0. Totals: 37-2-11.
Set assists: NU 60 (Hames 51, Knuckles 6, Sweet 1, Sun 1, Miller 1), IU 36 (Fitzner 16, Brisack 16, Armstron 3, Sloan 1).