LINCOLN, Neb. – The No. 8 Nebraska volleyball celebrated its 250th consecutive regular-season sellout in a big way with a thrilling 3-2 win over No. 7 Penn State in front of a crowd of 8,434 on Friday night at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.
The Huskers (17-6, 8-5 Big Ten) beat a top-10 opponent for the first time in their last six tries after a dominant 15-8 win in the decisive fifth set. Penn State held the upper hand in the match after a 27-25 comeback win in set one and a 25-21 win in set three after the Huskers took set two, 25-19. Needing to win the fourth set to force a game five for the third straight time in the series, the Huskers did so with a 25-18 win. In set five, Lexi Sun, who had a match-high 16 kills, came up with six kills on nine swings to spark the Huskers past the Nittany Lions (18-5, 9-4 Big Ten) for NU’s eighth win in the last nine meetings between the teams.
Both teams were stellar defensively, as Nebraska held a .179 to .114 edge in hitting. The mark was a season low for Penn State. The Huskers had 20 blocks, their most since 2006, and their 104 digs were their most in a match since 2004.
Mikaela Foecke had 15 kills and career highs in digs (29) and blocks (six), while Sun had 14 digs to go with her 16 kills. Lauren Stivrins had the first double-double of her career with 13 kills and a career-high 10 blocks. She also hit .522 for the match. Jazz Sweet had seven kills and five blocks, and Callie Schwarzenbach had six kills and nine blocks. Nicklin Hames provided 46 assists and 17 digs. Libero Kenzie Maloney led the Huskers with 23 digs, and Megan Miller contributed 14, matching her career high.
Taylor Leath had 16 kills and 15 digs for Penn State. Kaitlyn Hord had 15 kills and six blocks.
Set 1: The teams combined for three early service errors as Penn State took a 6-3 lead. The Huskers pulled within one point twice, but Penn State remained in the lead and went up 12-8 after a Husker hitting error. Sweet and Stivrins connected on back-to-back kills and then stuffed a Penn State attack to pull the Huskers within one for a third time, 12-11. This time, a Penn State net violation leveled the score at 12-12 for the first time since it was 1-1. A tough serve by Maloney then created an opportunity for Foecke to smash a kill on an overpass to give the Huskers their first lead, 13-12, after the 5-0 run. Foecke and Stivrins combined for a block to put NU up 15-14 at the media timeout, and Nebraska went up 18-15 after a block by Schwarzenbach and Sun and a kill by Sun. A crazy rally that began with Maloney diving into the Huskers’ bench to save a ball resulted in a solo block by Schwarzenbach for a 20-16 Husker lead. After seven consecutive sideouts, Penn State pulled within 23-21 on a kill by Hord. After a timeout, Stivrins terminated to earn set point for the Big Red at 24-21, but the Nittany Lions answered with the next three points to tie the set at 24-24. Penn State gained set point at 26-25 after a Husker hitting error, and the Nittany Lions won 27-25 after the Huskers’ seventh attacking miscue of the set.
Set 2: Nebraska used a 3-0 spurt to take a 6-4 lead with Stivrins posting a pair of blocks and Foecke a kill. Stivrins, Foecke and Schwarzenbach tacked on kills to make it 9-6 Huskers, but Penn State immediately tied the set at 9-9. Sun posted kills on the next three rallies to restore a 12-9 Husker lead, and Nebraska led 16-10 after two blocks by Schwarzenbach, one with Sweet and one with Foecke. Schwarzenbach, Foecke and Stivrins all tacked on kills as Nebraska pulled ahead 19-13. The Huskers used a four-point spurt to take a 23-14 lead, and Nebraska tied the match with a 25-19 win. In the set, the Huskers held Penn State to .055 hitting, thanks in part to six blocks.
Set 3: A tightly contested third set saw the Huskers up 9-7 before Penn State rallied to go ahead 11-10. Nebraska answered with a block by Sweet and Schwarzenbach to go back on top, 12-11, but the back-and-forth action continued as Penn State went up 14-13 on a kill by Hord and led 15-14 at the media timeout. Stivrins connected on back-to-back rallies out of the break to make it 16-15 Huskers. But a Husker hitting error and a Penn State ace made it 19-17 Nittany Lions. Penn State gained separation at 22-18 after back-to-back blocks, but Sun and Sweet notched kills to help the Huskers get within 23-21. But Penn State went on to win 25-21 as the Huskers hit just .032 in the set.
Set 4: Nebraska led 8-3 after a pair of blocks by Stivrins and kills by three different Huskers, but Penn State cut it to 8-6. Stivrins added another kill, and momentum switched to the Huskers after a 4-0 run that included back-to-back video reviews that benefitted the Huskers to make it 14-8. Schwarzenbach and Sweet thwarted a Penn State attack for a 16-9 lead, and blasts by Stivrins and Foecke made it 20-13 Huskers. Nebraska finished off the 25-18 win to force a fifth set.
Set 5: For the third straight time, Nebraska and Penn State played a fifth set. Penn State held the early advantage after taking a 3-1 lead. But Foecke pounded a kill and solo blocked a Penn State attack to tie the score at 3-3. Foecke, Sun and Stivrins boosted the Huskers to an 8-5 lead with a trio of kills. Back-to-back-to-back kills by Sun and a Penn State hitting error increased the Huskers’ lead to 12-6. A Penn State couldn’t slow the Huskers’ run, as Schwarzenbach and Sun combined for a block to make it 13-6, and Stivrins served NU’s first ace of the match for match point. NU won 15-8, finishing the match on an 11-3 run.
Up Next: The Huskers face Rutgers on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.