The Husker defense was on display in the
25-9, 25-14, 25-20 victory as Nebraska held Kentucky to -.010 hitting for the
match, as the Wildcats totaled only 18 kills in the three sets while committing
18 errors, including nine Nebraska blocks. The Huskers had at least 15 kills in
every set, including 17 in set one when the Huskers hit .484. Nebraska hit .267
for the match, led by impressive performances from senior Lindsey Licht and
sophomore Hannah Werth.
"It's always great to win your first match of the year," Head Coach John Cook said. "It was good for us to see how we can run a lot of points. I thought our team did a really good job of that, where as last year I'm not sure if we had the mentality to run four, five, six, seven points."
Licht finished with 14 kills on only 20 swings, hitting .650 while adding six blocks. Werth had 11 kills on 21 swings to hit .429 and notched the 14th double-double of her career by adding 10 digs. Junior Brooke Delano added eight kills, senior Tara Mueller had seven kills and freshman Morgan Broekhuis had six in her career debut. Senior Kayla Banwarth produced a match-high 20 digs, while senior Sydney Anderson had 15 assists and sophomore Lauren Cook had 18 in her debut.
Whitney Billings paced Kentucky (0-1) with nine kills, although she also committed nine errors on 31 swings. Blair Hiler was the only other Wildcat to finish with more than two kills, as she had five kills and was one of only two players to hit above .000.
Strong serving from Banwarth helped the Huskers take control of set one from the beginning. With Nebraska on top 5-3, Banwarth stepped to the line and served nine straight points. A side out from Kentucky did nothing to slow the Huskers' momentum as the lead grew to 22-5 after Nebraska completed a dominating stretch where it won 18 of 20 rallies. Kentucky scored three straight points late in the set before a Licht kill gave the Huskers a 25-9 win in the opener.
Licht finished the set with five kills on
six error-free swings, while Delano had four kills on five swings. As a team,
Nebraska connected on 17 of its 31 swings in the opening set for a .484 attack
percentage, while Kentucky had only four kills and seven errors to
The Huskers did not start as well in set two, falling behind 8-4 at the first media timeout, with six of Kentucky's eight points coming from Nebraska errors. But the Huskers regained their form after the break, scoring eight straight points and winning 12 of the next 14 rallies to build a 16-10 lead. Licht had five kills during the 12-2 run to reach double figures for the match. When Licht headed to the bench, fellow right-side hitter Morgan Broekhuis picked up where she left off, contributing three straight points on back-to-back kills and a block assist to stretch the lead to 21-10. Werth then closed out a 25-14 win with consecutive kills.
Licht again had five kills on six error-free swings in the second set, while Werth connected on four of her five swings. The Huskers hit .244 in the set as a result of seven errors, but Kentucky had six kills and six errors. Nebraska recorded five blocks in the set, including three from sophomore Allison McNeal.
The Huskers started slow again in the third set. Leading 2-0, four straight Husker errors - including back-to-back blocks by Kentucky - gave the Wildcats a two-point lead. Kentucky continued to lead and held an 11-8 advantage before the Huskers stormed back to take the lead for good on the strength of an 8-0 run. Cook served seven straight points to give NU a 16-11 lead. Kentucky took a timeout trailing 20-15 and immediately ran off three straight points to trim the lead to two and force a Husker timeout. Nebraska responded out of the break by scoring the next four points, including a pair of kills from Mueller. Broekhuis then closed out a 25-20 win with a kill on the Huskers' third match point.
The Huskers (1-0) wrap up action at the Runza/AVCA Showcase on Sunday against No. 13 Florida, which defeated ninth-ranked Iowa State 3-1 in Saturday's first match. First serve between the Huskers and Gators is scheduled for 4 p.m. and the match will be televised locally on NET and NET-HD and nationally on CBS College Sports.