The No. 12 Nebraska volleyball team got back on track Wednesday night, opening Big Ten play with a 3-1 win (25-21, 25-21, 23-25, 25-16) over Northwestern at Welsh-Ryan Arena. The Huskers improved to 7-3 (1-0 Big Ten), while the Wildcats dropped to 5-7 (0-1).
Madi Kubik powered her way to a season-best 19 kills to lead the match and added nine digs, a solo block and an ace. Lindsay Krause matched her season best with 15 kills on .500 hitting with two blocks, and Kayla Caffey had 12 kills on a .647 night while committing just one attack error.
Callie Schwarzenbach collected seven blocks alongside four kills. Keonilei Akana finished with a team-best 13 digs, which tied her career best.
Nicklin Hames guided the Husker offense to a .308 team hitting night — its second-best performance of the year. The senior totaled a season-high 45 assists and 11 digs with two blocks, two aces and a kill for her seventh double-double of the season.
Ally Batenhorst had an impactful performance with eight kills. The pin hitters combined for 42 of the Huskers’ 60 kills on the night. NU also finished with 10 blocks as a team.
Northwestern was led by 14 kills from Hanna Lesiak and another 12 from Leilani Dodson.
The Huskers hit .382 out of the gate, spurred by six kills on .455 hitting from Kubik and five more kills from Krause. NU also had three aces from the service line.
Three straight kills between Krause and Kubik created a 3-0 opening run before Northwestern tightened up the set. Breaking past an 11-11 tie, a Kubik kill put the Huskers ahead for good. A 4-0 run spurred them to a 19-14 edge, and the Wildcats never got closer than three as Nebraska took the set 25-21.
Four Huskers spread around seven kills and a solo block for an 8-1 run, which powered NU to a 10-5 advantage early on. The Huskers had nine kills on their first 16 swings to hit .500, and Northwestern took a timeout down 13-7. NU took their largest lead a point later on a Schwarzenbach solo stop.
The Wildcats answered with a 5-1 run that trimmed the Husker advantage to 15-12. They got within three twice more before back-to-back kills from Krause and Caffey extended the NU lead to five again at 20-15.
Northwestern surged with kills from four different players during a 6-2 spurt, cutting Nebraska’s advantage to 22-21. But the Huskers closed down the stretch, using three straight kills from Batenhorst and Schwarzenbach to win set two, 25-21.
Northwestern hit .700 to start the third set on the back of seven kills on 10 errorless attempts, which brought the Wildcats to a 10-7 lead. The Huskers turned to Krause, who hammered a pair of kills, and she and Schwarzenbach then added a block to tie it at 10-all. Kenzie Knuckles chimed in with an ace serve to spot NU its first lead before a Wildcat timeout. A Kubik kill out of the break stretched the Husker run to 7-1, but the Wildcats managed to stall it again at 12-12 on an NU attack error and a Rousseau kill.
Northwestern broke past a 16-16 tie with a 5-1 run finally halted with a Batenhorst solo block. Caffey and Kubik both terminated to pull the Huskers within two at 22-20, and NU crept within one at 23-22 after another Kubik kill. The Wildcats reached set point on Dodson’s 10th kill of the night, but Caffey put down a kill of her own to temporarily hold off the Wildcat surge. The call on a Batenhorst kill was overturned after a Northwestern challenge, which gave the Wildcats a 25-23 win to avoid the match sweep.
Nebraska hit .296 in the fourth set while holding Northwestern to -.032. The Huskers were outstanding at the net with a 6-0 blocking advantage, led by five stops from Schwarzenbach and another three off the bench from Lexi Sun.
Down 7-3 early, Nebraska put together a 9-1 run to surge ahead 12-8. Even interrupted with a Northwestern timeout at 9-8, Schwarzenbach and Hames put up back-to-back blocks, and an Anni Evans ace prompted a second Wildcat timeout. The run continued with a Northwestern attack error, and Schwarzenbach added a kill to push the lead to 14-8.
After the Wildcats answered, NU rattled off four straight points on two kills, a block and an ace up to 18-10. They matched the eight-point margin at 20-12 on back-to-back blocks. The Huskers closed with a 5-2 advantage with the help of kills by Krause, Caffey and Kubik alongside two Northwestern attacking miscues. NU’s 25-16 set win sealed the match at 3-1.
Noting Tonight’s Match
-The third set was the first set Northwestern has taken from the Huskers since 2013. Nebraska had previously swept the last eight matches.
-The Huskers’ 10 blocks mark their fifth match this year with a double-digit team block total.
-NU has won 12 straight matches in the series and leads 16-1 all-time, including 13-1 in the John Cook era. The Huskers are 6-1 in Evanston.
Nebraska welcomes Iowa on Saturday, Sept. 25, with first serve set for 2 p.m. at the Devaney Center.