Outside hitter Lexi Sun led the No. 2-ranked Nebraska volleyball team to a four-set win against Arizona on Friday in San Diego.
Sun had a match-high 15 kills in the Huskers’ 25-17, 25-14, 17-25, 25-17 victory. Sun was playing about 40 minutes from her home in Encinitas, California, and had a large group of family and friends at the match.
Sun had her best hitting percentage of the season at .353. She also had two ace serves, three blocks and eight digs.
“Lexi did a nice job tonight, minus set three,” said Nebraska coach John Cook in a radio interview. “It was fun to see her. She was competing hard tonight.”
Junior right-side hitter Jazz Sweet also had a great match with 11 kills on .320 hitting. Freshman outside hitter Madi Kubik was also in double-digits in kills with 13, but hit just .163.
Nebraska improved its record to 3-0, but there was some disappointment because Nebraska followed up probably the best set it had played all year in set two with its worst of the season in set three.
Nebraska fired out to a 13-1 lead in the second set and was playing great. Arizona (2-2) cut into the lead, but then Sun had back-to-back kills for a 23-13 lead and the Huskers won the set 25-14 for a 2-0 match lead.
It wasn’t until 2-1 in the third set that Arizona led at any point in the match, but then the Wildcats just kept going, taking leads of 8-2 and 20-9. Nebraska’s passing wasn’t as good and the Huskers made more hitting errors than during the first two sets. Nebraska had a minus-.081 hitting percentage in the third set.
Cook said one of the team goals for the match was to play point-by-point, and what happened in the third set showed that didn’t happen.
“If you’re playing point-by-point, you’re not worried about the result, you’re worried about the next point, and obviously we were thinking the match was over,” Cook said.
What happened to Nebraska in the third set was the sign of an immature team, Cook said.
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“It’s a little disappointing on that, but it’s a good lesson for us to learn that you just can’t let up and think it’s over, because you saw how poorly we started playing,” Cook said.
In the fourth set Arizona led 10-9, but Nebraska won eight of 10 rallies in a stretch to regain control and win the match.
Nebraska had a .214 hitting percentage for the match, and Arizona hit .111.
Sophomore middle blocker Callie Schwarzenbach left the match with an ankle injury near the end of the first set. Freshman Riley Zuhn, who is a backup at both middle blocker and outside hitter, came in for Schwarzenbach and got kills on her first two hitting attempts. Zuhn finished with three kills and a match-high four blocks.
That meant there were times when Nebraska had three true freshmen playing with libero Kenzie Knuckles, Kubik and Zuhn. Schwarzenbach could have returned to the match if needed, Cook said.
Kenzie Knuckles had a match-high 19 digs. Nicklin Hames had 40 set assists, three ace serves, two blocks and 14 digs.
Lauren Stivrins had six kills, but also six errors and hit .000. Cook said Arizona was putting two blockers on Stivrins, but that Stivrins also needed to do a better job of hitting different shots.
Paige Whipple led Arizona with 13 kills. The Wildcats were ranked to begin the season.
Nebraska sophomore outside hitter Capri Davis also won’t play this weekend due to injury.
The Huskers will play 25th-ranked San Diego on Saturday at 9 p.m.
-- Brent C. Wagner