WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — After watching Nebraska commit 31 hitting errors and get aced 11 times, John Cook offered a frank assessment of how the Huskers played against No. 20 Purdue.
“It was not a very good effort,” the Nebraska coach said on his postgame radio show. “It was stupid volleyball.”
Errors caught up with the fifth-ranked Huskers as they fell to Purdue 23-25, 25-23, 25-17, 20-25, 15-8 Saturday night at Holloway Gymnasium. The Boilermakers’ win was the first against NU in eight tries since 2013.
The result was a stark contrast from when the two teams met 10 days ago and the Huskers won in four sets. This time, Nebraska fell behind early in four of the five sets.
Cook said the Huskers were fortunate to be as competitive as they were after committing 13 more errors than the Boilermakers and getting outblocked 16-5.
“We were lucky to be in a fifth game,” Cook said. “Totally lucky. That’s probably a miracle.”
Nebraska struggled to start the match as miscues piled up early. Purdue took a 17-8 lead as the Huskers recorded 10 hitting errors and just seven kills.
Purdue looked like it was about to go up 22-12 on another error by Madi Kubik, but Cook challenged the call for a touch and it was reversed. That sparked an 8-0 run, and the Huskers finished off the set with the final four points as Sun, who had five errors early, pounded home the final kill.
“That was a great comeback, and we got Purdue to implode,” Cook said.
The second set was almost a replay of the first, as the Boilermakers led by seven early, but the Huskers rebounded to take a 23-22 lead. However, this time NU couldn’t finish off the rally as Purdue scored the final three points to take the set and tie the match.
After splitting the next two sets, Purdue took the drama out of the final set by jumping out to a 7-1 lead on four NU hitting errors, which included three on blocks, and two ace serves. The Huskers hit .000 in the fifth set, their worst performance during conference play, as they had five kills and five errors.
Caitlyn Newton finished with 17 kills, seven digs and five blocks, while Blake Mohler hit 11 kills at a .556 clip to go with nine blocks.
After Nebraska held outside hitter Grace Cleveland to just four kills and a negative hitting percentage during the first meeting, the Boilermakers’ outside hitter tallied 13 kills, four aces and six blocks.
“Mentally we weren’t very sharp tonight and we didn’t follow our game plan,” Cook said. “We were late on everything. You have to give Purdue credit; they were swinging and we were tipping. They served the crap out of it.”
For the second straight night, Lauren Stivrins recorded a career-high in kills. She had 17 against Indiana on Friday and finished with 18 versus Purdue. Lexi Sun also had 18 kills, while Callie Schwarzenbach hit .533 with eight kills. As a team, NU hit .210.
Kenzie Knuckles led four Nebraska players with double-digit digs with 18, but the passing was not sharp, especially in serve receive.
Cook said the lack of communication on defense and the poor passing cost the Huskers the match. He said those same mistakes popped up in practice, but they’ll have a chance to work on it before hosting Rutgers on Friday.
“They understand how they have to play,” Cook said. “We are going to have to get better and learn from this.”
PURDUE 3, NEBRASKA 2
Nebraska (16-3, 8-2) 25 23 17 25 8
at Purdue (14-5, 6-4) 23 25 25 20 15
NU (kills-aces-blocks): Sun 18-2-1, Stivrins 18-0-2, Kubik 12-2-1, Sweet 9-0-1, Schwarzenbach 8-0-2, Hames 3-1-0, Knuckles 0-1-0, Densberger 0-1-0. Totals: 68-7-7.
PU: Newton 17-3-5, Cleveland 13-4-6, Mohler 11-0-9, Ellis 9-0-2, Cuttino 5-0-6, Bush 2-0-2, Hornung 1-2-0, Otec 0-2-0. Totals: 58-11-30.
Set assists: NU 61 (Hames 54, Knuckles 2, Miller 2, Sun 1, Stivrins 1, Kubik 1), PU 51 (Bush 48, Hornung 2, Cuttino 1).