Husker Defense Shines in Sweep of Bluejays

Second-ranked Nebraska put on a defensive show, holding Creighton to a season-low .091 hitting in posting a 25-19, 25-18, 25-19 victory Sunday afternoon.

The Huskers, who lead the Big 12 in opponent hitting percentage, totaled 65 digs on the afternoon and received season highs from both Kayla Banwarth (20) and Jordan Larson (19). The 65 digs was not only NU's highest three-set total of the year, but its best in a three-set match in three seasons. Nebraska's stout defensive performance was not limited to floor defense, as the Huskers (15-0) also recorded 12 blocks – its best three-set total of the season –including six from Kori Cooper and four from Lindsey Licht.

The strong defensive effort was needed as both teams kept numerous rallies alive, much to the delight of the crowd of 8,037, which was the third-largest crowd in the country this season. The Bluejays (6-7) totaled 54 digs of their own, as both sides were held under .225 on the night.

Nebraska Coach John Cook was pleased with the Huskers' effort, knowing that Creighton would be ready for the challenge.

"Both teams played hard and there were a lot of great rallies on both sides," Cook said. "It a tough match for us after playing Colorado last night. I thought our team responded really well, and I knew Creighton would play their hearts out. It was a fun match to watch and the great for the fans that came out. To get over 8,000 fans on a Sunday afternoon televised match really shows the support that both programs receive around the state."

While Nebraska used its defense, sophomore Tara Mueller paced the offensive charge with a match-high 15 kills and added eight digs of her own. Larson fell one kill short of a double-double with nine kills, while Sydney Anderson also fell one dig short of a double-double of her own, finishing with nine digs and 39 assists.

Nebraska also made a little of its own history on Sunday, as the senior class of Larson, Rachel Schwartz and Amanda Gates became the first NU senior class to go an entire career without dropping a regular-season non-conference match. The trio helped NU to its 37th consecutive regular-season non-conference win, including a perfect 34-0 in their time at Nebraska.

Nebraska used a strong defense early and the power of Licht late to post a 25-19 victory in the opening set. The Huskers totaled four blocks and held the Bluejays to .105 hitting. Licht totaled five kills on .417 hitting, including three consecutive kills after Creighton pulled to within 22-19. The Husker block got off to a great start, totaling four early blocks in the first 12 points of the match, including three straight blocks by Cooper, to race out to a 10-2 advantage. The Bluejays chipped away at the Husker lead, pulling to within 16-12 after a Carolyn Decker kill, but Nebraska took the next two rallies to take an 18-12 advantage after an Anderson kill. Creighton continued to battle and was within 22-19, but Licht ended the ‘Jays comeback hopes, pounding three straight kills.

"The thing I was most pleased tonight was that we were able to take over sets late and with different people take over at times," Cook said.

In the second set, the inside-out duo of Mueller and Cooper were too much in a 25-18 victory. NU out-hit the Bluejays, .262.-.073, as Mueller led the way with five kills while Cooper chipped in four kills in five swings and a pair of solo stuffs. Once again, it was a fast start for NU, as the Huskers used a 5-0 spurt to turn an early deficit into a 7-3 lead after a Larson solo stuff. Larson's stuff was the third straight for the Big Red, as Cooper ended the previous two rallies with swats. After Creighton pulled within 13-9, Larson and Licht combined on four straight kills, spotting NU a comfortable 17-9 lead. The Bluejays made one last run and got within 22-17, but the Huskers won the next two rallies and went into the locker room with a 2-0 advantage.

The finale was a back-and-forth contest that featured nine lead changes and 14 ties before the Huskers pulled away late for a 25-19 victory. While Larson and Mueller combined for 10 kills, it was the defensive effort of Gates, who totaled a pair of blocks including a big solo stuff, which turned the tide for the Big Red. Neither team led by more than two points through the first half of the set, and the Huskers trailed 15-14 before two straight Larson kills gave NU a lead they would not relinquish. Cooper than combined with Anderson on a stuff to give NU a two-point lead and force a Bluejay timeout. Ahead 20-18, two Mueller kills and a solo stuff by Gates gave the Huskers a five-point lead, at 23-18, and all the breathing room they would need in recording their 10th sweep of the year.

Amanda Cvejdik and Jessica Houts led Creighton with seven kills apiece, as the Bluejays became the third Husker foe to be held to under .100 hitting this season.

The Huskers will return to Big 12 action on Wednesday night, as the Huskers play host to Oklahoma at the NU Coliseum. First serve for the 112th consecutive sellout at the NU Coliseum is set for 7 p.m. and the match will be carried on the Husker Sports Network and on Huskers.com. In addition, the match will be televised nationally on ESPNU. The Huskers, who lead the Big 12 in opponent hitting percentage, totaled 65 digs on the afternoon and received season highs from both Kayla Banwarth (20) and Jordan Larson (19). The 65 digs was not only NU's highest three-set total of the year, but its best in a three-set match in three seasons. Nebraska's stout defensive performance was not limited to floor defense, as the Huskers (15-0) also recorded 12 blocks – its best three-set total of the season –including six from Kori Cooper and four from Lindsey Licht.

The strong defensive effort was needed as both teams kept numerous rallies alive, much to the delight of the crowd of 8,037, which was the third-largest crowd in the country this season. The Bluejays (6-7) totaled 54 digs of their own, as both sides were held under .225 on the night.

Nebraska Coach John Cook was pleased with the Huskers' effort, knowing that Creighton would be ready for the challenge.

"Both teams played hard and there were a lot of great rallies on both sides," Cook said. "It a tough match for us after playing Colorado last night. I thought our team responded really well, and I knew Creighton would play their hearts out. It was a fun match to watch and the great for the fans that came out. To get over 8,000 fans on a Sunday afternoon televised match really shows the support that both programs receive around the state."

While Nebraska used its defense, sophomore Tara Mueller paced the offensive charge with a match-high 15 kills and added eight digs of her own. Larson fell one kill short of a double-double with nine kills, while Sydney Anderson also fell one dig short of a double-double of her own, finishing with nine digs and 39 assists.

Nebraska also made a little of its own history on Sunday, as the senior class of Larson, Rachel Schwartz and Amanda Gates became the first NU senior class to go an entire career without dropping a regular-season non-conference match. The trio helped NU to its 37th consecutive regular-season non-conference win, including a perfect 34-0 in their time at Nebraska.

Nebraska used a strong defense early and the power of Licht late to post a 25-19 victory in the opening set. The Huskers totaled four blocks and held the Bluejays to .105 hitting. Licht totaled five kills on .417 hitting, including three consecutive kills after Creighton pulled to within 22-19. The Husker block got off to a great start, totaling four early blocks in the first 12 points of the match, including three straight blocks by Cooper, to race out to a 10-2 advantage. The Bluejays chipped away at the Husker lead, pulling to within 16-12 after a Carolyn Decker kill, but Nebraska took the next two rallies to take an 18-12 advantage after an Anderson kill. Creighton continued to battle and was within 22-19, but Licht ended the ‘Jays comeback hopes, pounding three straight kills.

"The thing I was most pleased tonight was that we were able to take over sets late and with different people take over at times," Cook said.

In the second set, the inside-out duo of Mueller and Cooper were too much in a 25-18 victory. NU out-hit the Bluejays, .262.-.073, as Mueller led the way with five kills while Cooper chipped in four kills in five swings and a pair of solo stuffs. Once again, it was a fast start for NU, as the Huskers used a 5-0 spurt to turn an early deficit into a 7-3 lead after a Larson solo stuff. Larson's stuff was the third straight for the Big Red, as Cooper ended the previous two rallies with swats. After Creighton pulled within 13-9, Larson and Licht combined on four straight kills, spotting NU a comfortable 17-9 lead. The Bluejays made one last run and got within 22-17, but the Huskers won the next two rallies and went into the locker room with a 2-0 advantage.

The finale was a back-and-forth contest that featured nine lead changes and 14 ties before the Huskers pulled away late for a 25-19 victory. While Larson and Mueller combined for 10 kills, it was the defensive effort of Gates, who totaled a pair of blocks including a big solo stuff, which turned the tide for the Big Red. Neither team led by more than two points through the first half of the set, and the Huskers trailed 15-14 before two straight Larson kills gave NU a lead they would not relinquish. Cooper than combined with Anderson on a stuff to give NU a two-point lead and force a Bluejay timeout. Ahead 20-18, two Mueller kills and a solo stuff by Gates gave the Huskers a five-point lead, at 23-18, and all the breathing room they would need in recording their 10th sweep of the year.

Amanda Cvejdik and Jessica Houts led Creighton with seven kills apiece, as the Bluejays became the third Husker foe to be held to under .100 hitting this season.

The Huskers will return to Big 12 action on Wednesday night, as the Huskers play host to Oklahoma at the NU Coliseum. First serve for the 112th consecutive sellout at the NU Coliseum is set for 7 p.m. and the match will be carried on the Husker Sports Network and on Huskers.com. In addition, the match will be televised nationally on ESPNU.

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