LINCOLN — Entering Saturday night, Nebraska was 299-0 when hitting above .300 in the John Cook era.
Make that 299-1 now.
The second-ranked Huskers finished with a normally reliable .336 hitting percentage but were swept by No. 13 Wisconsin 25-22, 25-21, 25-22 at the Devaney Center.
“That blows my mind,” Cook said.
“You ask any coach, ‘We will let you hit .336. Do you want that?’ Yeah, I’ll take it. I’m not sure we hit .336 in warmups tonight. What is hard for me is what they hit and on our home court. That’s really hard.”
Wisconsin countered by hitting .376 — which was the highest by a Nebraska opponent since Purdue hit .410 in 2011 — as three players recorded double-digit kills, led by 11 from Molly Haggerty. Dana Rettke finished with 10 kills on 20 swings with no errors and Danielle Hart added 10 kills on a .643 clip.
Nebraska (11-2, 3-1) had its share of gaudy offensive numbers, too. Junior outside hitter Lexi Sun led the Huskers with 15 kills, while Jazz Sweet added 13 on a .524 hitting percentage. Lauren Stivrins finished with nine kills on 11 swings. Madi Kubik added nine kills on a season-best .364 hitting percentage.
The Huskers’ defense wasn’t as sharp as it has been in the past, which Cook said was a result of playing three straight road games as well as playing a quality opponent like Wisconsin. Nebraska finished with just four team blocks and 39 digs, led by 10 from freshmen Kenzie Knuckles and Kubik.
“We didn’t stay with our assignments and our preparation,” Cook said. “We stopped serving tough and they got in a really good rhythm and I also think I saw a tired version of serve-block defense.”
Nebraska also did itself no favors with 10 service errors and zero aces. Cook said the team became less aggressive after sending a few serves into the net, which allowed the Badgers to play in system more.
“It’s a psychological advantage (for the other team) when you serve into the net,” Cook said. “It’s a weak play and they gain confidence.”
The Huskers led late in each set, but couldn’t find a way to finish them off.
In the first set, NU took a 21-20 lead after a successful challenge call, but the Badgers responded with five of the next six points, including two kills on overpasses and a net violation on a slam attempt.
The Husker led 16-15 in the second set before giving up a 6-1 run, which included a set error, the Badgers’ only block in the first two sets and a service error. For that set, NU finished with a hitting percentage of .424, but Wisconsin topped that with a .517 mark.
Then in the third set, NU led 20-19, but a 6-2 Badger run ended the hopes extending the match.
“Wisconsin did a really good job of staying aggressive and I think there were times when we took our foot off the gas a little bit,” Stivrins said. “We couldn’t get enough defensive stops to slow them down. Coach always talks about willing the ball up. We knew how they were going to attack and we were still slow to get on their tendencies and read the ball better.”
The match was the first time Nebraska lost at home in three sets since Aug. 31, 2014, against No. 3 Stanford, and it was the first sweep of any kind NU had suffered since the 2016 national title match against Texas.
“It hurts. I mean, it sucks,” NU setter Nicklin Hames said. “No one wants to get swept at home, especially in front of your fans. We were so close in all those games and we were right there. We had the lead in most of them and then we just make a few errors and they would take control.”
Wisconsin (8-4, 4-0).............25 25 25
at Nebraska (11-2, 3-1)........22 21 22
UW (kills-aces-blocks): Haggerty 11-1-1, Rettke 10-1-3, Hart 10-0-1, Loberg 10-0-1, Duello 6-0-0, Clark 0-1-0, Hilley 0-0-1. Totals 47-3-7.
NU: Sun 15-0-0, Sweet 13-0-3, Kubik 9-0-1, Stivrins 9-0-1, Davis 2-0-0, Schwarzenbach 1-0-2, Hames 0-0-1, Zuhn 0-0-1. Totals 49-0-9.
Set assists: UW 45 (Hilley 42, Ashburn 2, Clark 1), NU 46 (Hames 42, Knuckles 2, Stivrins 1, Miller 1).