No. 5 Nebraska volleyball sweeps Ball State, advances in NCAA Tournament

From: Nebraska Athletics

The No. 6 Nebraska volleyball team advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament after a 25-13, 25-18, 25-10 sweep of Ball State in front of a crowd of 8,204 at the Bob Devaney Sports Center on Friday night. The Huskers (26-4) advanced to Saturday’s NCAA Second Round matchup with Missouri at 7 p.m. The Tigers defeated Northern Iowa, 3-0, in Friday’s other first-round match. 

Led by All-Big Ten setter Nicklin Hames and its three All-Big Ten attackers, Nebraska hit .425 in the match, its second highest mark of the season. The Huskers committed a season-low eight attack errors and were not blocked for the first time in a match in more than five years. Hames dished out 34 assists while running a balanced offense as Nebraska (45 kills) had nearly twice as many kills as Ball State (23).

Madi Kubik, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, had an impressive postseason debut, as she had 11 kills on 16 error-free swings to hit a career-high .688 in the first NCAA Tournament match of her career. Lauren Stivrins had 11 kills on .667 hitting out of the middle, while Lexi Sun put down nine kills on 21 swings and hit .333. Combined, the Huskers’ three all-conference attackers – Kubik, Stivrins and Sun – totaled 31 kills while committing only three errors.

Defensively, Nebraska limited Ball State (20-12) to a season-low .010 attack percentage, the only time in 32 matches this season the Cardinals hit below .120. Kenzie Knuckles had a match-high 13 digs in her NCAA Tournament debut, while Stivrins had five blocks and Hames had four stuffs, one shy of her career high. Sydnee VanBeek led Ball State with eight kills.

Nebraska and Missouri, which will be meeting in the second round in Lincoln for the second year in a row, will have a 7 p.m. start on Saturday on NET, BTN+ and the Husker Sports Network. 

Set 1: Nebraska trailed 3-2 before going on a 5-0 run to take a 7-3 lead. Kubik, Hames and Sun combined on four straight kills in that stretch, and NU went up 12-6 after Sun had a kill and a block with Schwarzenbach. The lead increased to 10 at 20-10 after two kills and a block by Kubik and an ace by Miller. The Huskers pulled away to win 25-13, hitting .548 to just .071 for Ball State. NU had 3.5 blocks and killed 19 of its 25 points. 

Set 2: NU rallied from down 7-5 to take a 9-7 lead after a 4-0 run sparked by a Stivrins kill and block. Hayley Densberger served an ace before a Kubik kill made it 12-8, and a pair of attacking errors by the Cardinals preceded a kill by Stivrins as the Huskers went up 18-12. Ball State got within four at 19-15, but the Huskers closed out the 25-18 win with Stivrins, Kubik and Sun posting kills down the stretch. 

Set 3: Ball State had to burn a timeout after Nebraska started the set on a 6-1 run. Sweet and Kubik each had a pair of kills to get the Huskers going. Hames sparked a six-point spurt with a kill, and Kubik and Stivrins tacked on three more as Nebraska went up 17-5 on a block by Sun and Schwarzenbach. Kubik’s 10th kill of the match put NU up 21-10, and Stivrins and Hames posted a block before another Kubik kill increased the lead to 23-10. Stivrins and Kubik teamed up for another block, and Miller ended the match with an ace. 

Nebraska Post-Match Notes

  • Nebraska won an NCAA Tournament match for the 36th straight season.
  • With the win, Nebraska improved to 114-32 all-time in the NCAA Tournament. The Huskers rank second in NCAA history in wins and winning percentage (.781) in the NCAA Tournament.
  • Nebraska improved to 33-1 all-time in first-round NCAA Tournament matches. The Huskers have won 32 consecutive first-round NCAA Tournament matches dating back to 1983 (Note: Nebraska received four first-round byes from 1994 to 1997).
  • The Huskers moved to 76-7 (.916) all-time at home in the NCAA Tournament.
  • Nebraska improved to 21-2 in NCAA Tournament matches at the Devaney Center, including a 16-1 record since the program’s permanent move to the arena in 2013.
  • NU won its 13th consecutive NCAA Tournament match at home.
  • John Cook improved to 81-20 in his NCAA Tournament career record. With the win, Cook tied Mick Haley (USC/Texas, retired) for third place all-time in NCAA Tournament coaching victories.
  • John Cook is now 73-15 in the NCAA Tournament as Nebraska’s head coach.
  • John Cook improved to 23-1 in his career in first-round NCAA Tournament matches, including a perfect 20-0 record at Nebraska.
  • Nebraska has won 53 straight matches against unranked opponents dating back to a 3-1 loss to Northern Iowa on Sept. 16, 2017. 
  • The Huskers were not blocked in the match, marking the first time a Nebraska team had not been blocked since Sept. 13, 2014 against Colgate.
  • Nebraska tied its season low with eight attack errors, and the Huskers’ .425 attack percentage was the second-highest mark of the season.
  • Madi Kubik had 11 kills on 16 error-free swings in her NCAA Tournament debut. Her .688 attack percentage was a career nigh, more than .200 points higher than her previous best (.462 against Rutgers on Nov. 11).
  • Lauren Stivrins had 11 kills on 15 swings and hit .667 in the match. In five career NCAA Tournament matches at the Devaney Center, Stivrins is hitting .527 (47 kills, eight errors, 74 attacks).