It took a really big finish late Saturday night in San Diego, but the Nebraska volleyball team is still undefeated two weeks into the season.
The second-ranked Huskers rallied to beat No. 25 San Diego in five sets, 22-25, 25-19, 22-25, 25-22, 15-11.
Nebraska (4-0) had a bad start to the match due to some poor passing, but rallied by winning the final two sets, including some big plays from outside hitter Lexi Sun in the final two sets.
Sun had a match-high 21 kills, including a kill on set point in both the fourth and fifth sets. Her kill on match point on a set from Nicklin Hames was one Nebraska coach John Cook won’t soon forget.
“That was the best hit I’ve ever seen Lexi hit,” said Cook in a radio interview. “She crushed that thing. I don’t know where that came from. Wow. That was a really impressive hit.”
Sun and Cook each grew up near San Diego, and Cook said Sun probably wanted to play well in front of her friends and family. But the junior outside hitter has also had a good start overall to her second season in Lincoln.
Lauren Stivrins added 14 kills on .393 hitting for the Huskers and had eight blocks. Hames had 17 digs and three blocks.
Nebraska had to win the fourth set to extend the match, and Sun kept coming up big for the Huskers in the set with a block, kills and an ace serve.
Nebraska trailed 22-21 in the fourth set and was on the verge of losing the match. But then Nebraska ended the set on 4-0 run to force a fifth set.
Sun had three kills in that run, including a back-row kill and the kill on set point. Hames also had a block during that run, and Madi Kubik served the run.
In the fifth set Nebraska got out to an 8-6 lead. Nebraska's lead reached 10-7 after a kill by Kubik. That came just a few rallies after the freshman was aced.
Nebraska doesn’t have any seniors on the roster, but its most experienced players were good at the finish after San Diego cuts its deficit to 11-9. Sun and Stivrins each had two kills in the final six rallies of the match.
And junior right-side hitter Jazz Sweet had three kills in the fifth set after having just six in the first four sets combined.
“That’s the first thing I tell Jazz,” Cook said. “'Jazz, why do you wait until the fifth set?’ She goes, ‘That’s when it’s show time.’”
And so Nebraska avoided the loss that several top-10 teams experienced during the week.
“I got to wrap my head around that one because I thought we were awful tonight,” Cook said. “And San Diego is a really nice team. They play great defense, they serve the crap out of it. We kind of won ugly, but we played better as the match went on and in games four and five. I look and we got freshmen out there and I know they were nervous. We had some ugly volleyball, but when we’re out of system we’re pretty good still.”
Cook feels like this group of players has a really deep belief in each other. The Huskers never trailed in the fifth set.
“As the match got tighter and we got to the end they just kept pulling together tighter and tighter, and I think that was a real strength,” Cook said.
An example of that came in the fifth set when Nebraska had a chance to run a play for middle blocker Callie Schwarzenbach. Cook said the whole team was yelling for Schwarzenbach to get up for the set. She only had two kills to that point, but her third kill gave the team a 6-4 lead.
Nebraska is back at home this week with matches against High Point, Denver and Loyola Marymount on Friday and Saturday, and the Huskers are now just 11 days away from the match against No. 1 Stanford in Lincoln.
-- Brent C. Wagner