LINCOLN — Creighton was trying to do everything it could to slow Lauren Stivrins. The Bluejays sent two blockers her way and set up a defense to take away her favorite shots.
In the end, it didn’t matter.
The Nebraska junior from Scottsdale, Arizona, went over, through and around Creighton’s defense as she finished with nine kills on 16 swings.
The All-America middle blocker provided a spark late as the second-ranked Huskers topped the Bluejays 25-19, 24-26, 25-17, 25-21 Friday night before a sellout crowd of 8,450 at the Devaney Center.
“There came a point in one timeout when our coaches were like ‘Just set it anyways,’ ” Stivrins said about setting her on a slide hit. “So we did and we were being aggressive with it. I know (setter) Nicklin (Hames) is going to put up a hittable ball from wherever.”
Stivrins had just two kills on three swings in the first two games before rattling off four kills in the third set and three more in the fourth.
Creighton coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth said the Jays were always trying to put four hands in front of Stivrins and had players designated to take away tips as well as the line.
“She’s arguably the best middle in the country right now. We were committing everything to try to slow her down,” Booth said. “I don’t think our setup was bad on her, she’s just good. She’s a special athlete.”
In the first set, Nebraska led 17-13 when freshman Madi Kubik sent over a free ball from her knees as Creighton had begun to celebrate. After a few more exchanges, NU junior Lexi Sun ended the rally with a kill. Hames then served three straight aces.
Creighton cut the advantage to 22-18 before Cook inserted sophomore outside hitter Capri Davis into the match and she recorded two kills during the final four points to give the Huskers the set. Davis finished with 10 kills and played the front row the rest of the match while Kubik played the back row.
“Madi was tentative tonight,” Cook said. “Capri, as you can see, does some nice things, and I wanted an opportunity to get Capri in tonight and that was it. ”
In the second set, the Huskers had a set point at 24-21, but CU’s Jaela Zimmerman delivered a kill and ace before a Davis hitting error gave Creighton the set.
Errors plagued the Jays in the third set — they committed four hitting errors, were blocked three times and fell behind 9-3. Once the Huskers led, they started feeding Stivrins and pulled away to win the set comfortably.
The Husker defense continued to keep Creighton at bay in the fourth set. Libero Kenzie Knuckles led the way with 22 digs and six set assists in her first career match.
“This team is relentless on defense, and I think we proved that it isn’t going to be easy to play us,” Stivrins said. “Kenzie balled out today. She was a stud.”
Twice in the fourth set, the Bluejays had a chance for a big kill but hit the ball into the net, once at 17-17 and then down 22-21. Creighton finished with a .067 hitting percentage.
Sun led the Huskers with 13 kills, but she needed 47 attacks to get there and committed six hitting errors. As a team, the Huskers hit .181 with 21 hitting errors. Last year, NU hit below .200 in just five matches, four of them losses. The only win came in five sets against Penn State, in which the Huskers hit .179.
The Huskers also recorded 11 service errors and six service receive errors.
Cook said he hopes the Huskers clean up their play before taking on UCLA at 7 p.m. Saturday.
“There were some first-game jitters a little bit on both sides,” Cook said. “We had way too many errors tonight, both serving and attacking.”
Creighton (0-1)...........19 26 17 21
Nebraska (1-0)............25 24 25 25
CU (kills-aces-blocks): Davis 13-2-0, Zimmerman 12-2-0, Hickman 8-0-0, Kostelac 5-1-1, Ballenger 4-0-4, Bressman 1-1-0, Cole 1-1-3. Totals: 44-6-8.
NU: Sun 13-1-1, Davis 10-0-3, Stivrins 9-0-2, Sweet 7-0-3, Kubik 5-0-0, Schwarzenbach 2-0-5, Hames 1-4-1. Totals: 47-5-14.
Set assists: CU 37 (Cole 32, Witt 3, Kostelac 1, Bressman 1), NU 43 (Hames 35, Knuckles 6, Sweet 2).