No. 1 Huskers Hold Off No. 5 Minnesota

Freshman Jordan Larson's 19 kills and 19 digs led No. 1 Nebraska to a 30-27, 30-25, 26-30, 25-30, 15-12 victory over No. 5 Minnesota in front of 3,850 fans at the Sports Pavilion on Monday afternoon.

Jordan Larson, the 6-foot-2 freshman from Hooper, Neb., was one of five Huskers to reach double figures in kills, as Nebraska (5-0) withstood a furious Gopher rally. Nebraska was five points away from a sweep before the Golden Gophers (3-1) came back to win the next two games and send the match to a fifth set before NU put away the 2004 NCAA runner-up.

Sophomore Sarah Pavan added 17 kills in the win, while Jennifer Saleaumua posted a double-double with 12 kills and matched her career high with 27 digs, the eighth-highest total in school history. The Huskers had a balanced attack, and received strong contributions from sophomore Meghan Smith, who set career bests in both kills (eight) and blocks (seven), as NU won its 29th straight regular-season match, including 17th straight on the road.

It was Nebraska's third win over a top-five team this season, as the Gophers moved up from sixth in the AVCA/CSTV poll released earlier Monday. Nebraska also extended its winning streak against Big Ten teams to 12 matches.

The Huskers had to overcome a rocky start in the opener before pulling out a 30-27 victory, holding the Gophers to .133 hitting and getting a strong performance from Smith, who saw the most extensive playing time of her career.

Minnesota built a quick 8-4 lead and forced a Husker timeout. Nebraska eventually fell behind 17-11 before mounting a comeback behind the serving of Saleaumua and the blocking of Smith, running off five straight points to close within 17-16 on a block by Smith and Larson. The Huskers forged ahead 22-21 on an Elmer kill, and took a 25-24 lead on a service ace from freshman Rachel Schwartz, but UM scored two straight points to regain the lead and force NU's second timeout.

Nebraska quickly responded, as Christina Houghtelling's kill tied the score at 26 before a UM net violation and Smith's third kill of the game put NU up by two points. NU led 29-26 after a Busboom kill, before Smith's fourth kill of game one closed out the 30-27 victory. Smith finished with four kills and three blocks in the opener, nearly eclipsing her career totals in both categories.

The second game followed a similar pattern, as the Huskers found themselves down early before rallying for a 30-25 victory. Trailing 10-7, NU regained the momentum, scoring eight straight points, including seven off the serve of Maggie Griffin. The sophomore served six straight points, as her second ace of the run gave NU a 14-10 lead and forced a Gopher timeout.

Griffin then served her third ace of the 8-0 spurt, putting the Huskers up by five. The Gophers came right back with an 8-3 run of their own to tie the score after an NU hitting error. The teams traded the lead back and forth until Houghtelling's kill gave the visitors the lead for good and consecutive Gopher errors pushed the lead to 26-23. UM closed to within 26-24, but could not get closer, as the Huskers closed the game on a 4-1 spurt.

In game three, the teams were tied eight times before the Huskers seemingly took control of the game with a 7-1 run, turning a 15-all tie into a 22-16 lead after a Gopher hitting error. The Huskers led 25-20, but Paula Gentil's serving sparked an 8-0 Gopher run, as UM took advantage of several Nebraska hitting errors to take a 28-25 lead.

An Elmer kill narrowed Minnesota's lead to 28-26, but Meredith Nelson's kill and a block by Nelson and Kelly Bowman closed out a 30-26 Gopher win. NU struggled offensively, hitting .093 with 12 errors.

The Gophers continued to fire on all cylinders in game four, out-hitting the Huskers, 316-.186 to take a 30-25 victory and send the match to a fifth game. Minnesota led 20-14 before two kills by Larson and an Elmer kill pulled the Huskers within three and forced a Gopher timeout. The Huskers eventually closed to within 25-24 on a Smith kill, but could get no closer, as a kill by Jessy Jones and a block by Jones and Jessica Byrnes sparked a 5-1 run to close out the fourth game.

In the finale, Nebraska led 4-3 after a pair of Gopher hitting errors, but Minnesota responded with kills from Byrnes and Nelson sandwiched around an Elmer hitting error to take a 5-4 lead and force a Husker timeout. With the score tied at six, NU regained the lead with kills from Pavan and Houghtelling and got a break as Nelson missed on an attack to take a 9-6 lead. The Gophers closed to 10-9, but NU pushed it back to 12-9 on kills from Houghtelling and Larson. NU had three match points and closed out the match with a Saleaumua kill.

The Huskers return home to host the Arby's/InfoUSA Players Challenge this weekend. Competition begins Friday evening as Penn State takes on Pacific, while the Huskers host Pepperdine. First serve for NU's game is set for 6 p.m. and will be available on B107.3 FM and on Huskers.com. The match will also be video-streamed on the Internet at HuskersNside.


Big Red Report Top Stories