EAST LANSING, Mich. — Nebraska won its 10th straight match against Michigan State, but Wednesday’s victory was the Huskers’ first sweep of the Spartans since 2013.
No. 6 Nebraska’s 25-20, 25-18, 25-23 win was also its first sweep on the Spartans’ home court.
“It’s always a struggle in here to play,” NU coach John Cook said during his postgame radio interview. “We were a little out of sync, a little out of whack. We started trying a little hard, but I thought when we got to the end of games, we started playing some good volleyball.”
The Huskers (21-3, 13-2 Big Ten) came from behind in two sets.
Nebraska trailed 18-15 in the first before seven straight points with Lexi Sun serving. NU shut the door by winning 10 of the final 12 rallies.
In the third set, the Spartans led 16-13 before the Husker offense found a rhythm. Madi Kubik hit three kills and Sun and Lauren Stivrins added two each during a 7-2 run. MSU tied it 23-23, but gave up the final two points on service and hitting errors.
Kubik led Nebraska with 16 kills on .306 hitting. Sun failed to put up double-digit kills for the first time in Big Ten play. She finished with nine kills, nine digs and four blocks.
Cook said the Michigan State defense was sending two blockers after Sun, which opened shots for others, but the passing didn’t allow NU to take advantage until the second set.
The Huskers played out of system early as Nicklin Hames recorded one set assist on NU’s first eight kills. Hames finished with 34 assists and a team-high 13 digs.
“Our ballhandling wasn’t very good tonight and it usually never is in this gym,” Cook said.
Stivrins and Callie Schwarzenbach combined for two kills on five swings in the first set. With improved passing late, Stivrins finished with seven kills on nine attacks. Schwarzenbach recorded five kills to go with six blocks.
Cook said getting more offensive production out of Schwarzenbach is key the rest of the year.
“If she can get two or three kills a set, it’s a backbreaker for the other team,” Cook said, “because they are working so to stop everybody else and all of a sudden she has a couple kills and then you have to start paying attention to her.”
The Huskers hit .296 but used Michigan State’s aggressive block to their advantage. The Spartans (14-11, 5-10) entered the match as the Big Ten’s second-best blocking team, averaging 2.63 per set. NU’s first four kills of the match were all tools off the block and Michigan State tallied three stuffs in the match.
Nebraska recorded three aces and mixed up the depths on their serves to keep the Spartan offense off-balance. MSU struggled early, hitting .148 in the first two sets before settling down and finished with a .196 hitting percentage.
Despite some struggles, Cook said he was just happy to leave Jenison Field House with a win.
“We got some things we can learn on and clean up,” Cook said. “It’s the time of year where you are trying to win a point, win a match and move on. The Huskers did what they needed to do tonight.”
Nebraska.................. (21-3, 13-2) 25 25 25
At Michigan State.... (14-11, 5-10) 20 18 23
NU (kills-aces-blocks): Kubik 16-0-0, Sun 9-0-0, Stivrins 7-0-0, Schwarzenbach 5-0-1, Sweet 5-0-0, Hames 4-1-0, Knuckles 0-1-0, Miller 0-1-0. Totals 46-3-1.
MSU: Swartz 10-0-0, Kabengele 8-0-0, Gros 6-0-0, Norris 4-0-0, Monks 4-0-0, Johnson 4-0-0, Shklyar 1-0-0, Cox 0-1-0, Midgette 0-1-0, Gibbs 0-1-0. Totals 37-3-0.
Set Assists: NU 44 (Hames 34, Knuckles 6, Miller 2, Schwarzenbach 1, Sun 1), MSU 34 (Shklyar 15, Midgette 9, Alford 3, Swartz 2, Cox 2, Norris 1, McLean 1, Kabengele 1).