LINCOLN, Neb. – The fourth-ranked Nebraska volleyball team continued its impressive run through the beginning of its Big Ten schedule with a 3-1 (25-19, 25-15, 22-25, 25-19) win over No. 14 Michigan State on Wednesday night in front of 8,406 spectators at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.
With the win, the Huskers (12-3, 5-0 Big Ten) took over sole possession of first place in the Big Ten standings a quarter of the way through the conference season. Michigan State, the only other unbeaten team in Big Ten play entering the night, dropped to 11-3 overall and 4-1 in conference play.
The Huskers won their sixth match in a row and their sixth straight match against a top-15 opponent, matching the most consecutive wins by NU against top-15 teams in a season since 2006.
Nebraska hit .217 in the match and held Michigan State to .147. The Huskers have held their first 15 opponents this season under .250 hitting. The last time they accomplished that feat was in 2007. NU also won the serving battle against the Big Ten’s leader in aces per set entering the match. The Huskers served five aces and gave up none to MSU, which also committed nine errors at the service line. The Huskers outblocked the Spartans, 11-7.
Annika Albrecht produced yet another dominant performance with 18 kills and 15 digs while hitting .333 and adding three solo blocks and two aces. She has double-digit kills in seven straight matches and has double-doubles in back-to-back matches for the first time this season.
Lauren Stivrins had 10 kills and four blocks, and Jazz Sweet provided an offensive spark with 10 kills on .318 hitting. Mikaela Foecke added nine kills and 10 digs, and Briana Holman had eight kills and two blocks.
Kelly Hunter had 45 set assists and 14 digs for her third straight double-double and fifth of the season. She also had a season-high five blocks. Five Huskers were in double digits in digs, led by libero Kenzie Maloney with 17. Sydney Townsend had 10.
Brooke Kranda led Michigan State with 16 kills but hit just .190 against the Big Red.
Set 1: Nebraska rallied from a 5-3 deficit to a 7-5 lead after a 4-0 run keyed by the serve of Foecke. A kill by Sweet and a block by Albrecht and Stivrins doubled the lead to four at 10-6. Sweet added another kill, followed by a solo block by Albrecht to force a Michigan State timeout with the Huskers up 12-8. After the timeout, Stivrins posted a kill and Albrecht killed a back-row set from Townsend for a 14-8 lead. The Spartans then hit long to make it 15-8 Nebraska, capping a 5-0 Husker run. The Spartans answered with a 5-0 run of their own to get back within 15-13 before committing a service error. Albrecht served an ace on the next rally, and then Michigan State hit into the antenna. Another tough serve by Albrecht forced Michigan State into sending over a free ball, and Stivrins terminated for a 19-13 lead. Holman smacked a kill and teamed up with Sweet for a block to put the Huskers ahead by seven, 22-15. The Huskers put the set away, 25-19, with another kill by Sweet and two by Albrecht. The Huskers held the Spartans to just .098 hitting.
Set 2: Sweet and Albrecht continued their impressive matches with a kill by the freshman and a solo block by the senior to put the Huskers up 7-6 early. The Spartans hit for a couple of errors around a Foecke kill, and NU led 10-7 at a Michigan State timeout. Later, Holman and Albrecht each added a pair of kills to make it 15-10 Huskers. Nebraska dominated the rest of the way with Sweet and Stivrins each tallying two more kills and Albrecht serving her 117th career ace to move into a tie for ninth in school history. The Huskers won 25-15 after finishing the set on a 13-5 run. NU was even better defensively in the second set, limiting Michigan State to .047 hitting.
Set 3: Hunter, Foecke and Stivrins opened the set with kills for the Huskers, and Maloney served her second ace of the night for a 5-2 advantage. Michigan State drew even at 8-8 before committing a service error. Hunter then took over with a kill, a solo block and a combined block with Stivrins. After that, Stivrins and Albrecht recorded kills, and the Huskers led 14-8 after the 6-0 run. But Michigan State went on an 11-5 run to tie the set at 19-19. Albrecht and Rachel Minarick traded kills, and then the Spartans served long to put NU back up, 21-20. A Husker hitting error squared the set again before Kranda terminated to put MSU up 22-21, its first lead since 1-0 to begin the set. The Spartans went up by two, 23-21, after a block, and the Huskers used a timeout. A double-contact call on Michigan State gave the Huskers the next point, but Michigan State got set point on a soft kill and won 25-22 on a Husker hitting error.
Set 4: After falling behind 3-1, Nebraska scored five points in a row via two Albrecht kills, one each by Sweet and Holman and a Holman/Foecke block. The Spartans cut it to 7-6, but Albrecht got a kill to put Hayley Densberger at the service line. Densberger served the next four points with Albrecht tacking on her 14th kill and Sweet her ninth, and the Huskers led 12-6. With a 13-8 lead, the Huskers got kills from Stivrins and Foecke and a solo block by Stivrins to help them to an 18-8 lead after a 5-0 run. Although the run ended on a service error, Hunter and Stivrins added another block, and Foecke smashed a kill to make it 20-10. Holman and Sweet pounded kills to help NU to a 22-12 lead, but the Spartans attempted to make things interesting with three straight points to get within 22-15. Albrecht got the Huskers out of the rotation with another kill, but Michigan State pulled within 23-18 after back-to-back kills by Kranda. Nebraska used a timeout to regroup, and Albrecht earned an immediate sideout for match point. She finished off the match at 25-19 with her 18th kill.
Up Next: The Huskers travel to face Iowa on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.