For the second straight match, Nebraska was a set away from a big road victory. But for the second straight match, the home team rallied for the win.
Momentum from a fourth-set surge carried over into the fifth set for No. 9 Wisconsin as the Badgers outlasted the No. 5 Nebraska volleyball team 25-20, 19-25, 17-25, 25-17, 15-8 in front of nearly 7,000 fans in Madison, Wisconsin.
The loss is Nebraska’s second straight, and it comes less than 24 hours before the Huskers’ showdown at third-ranked Minnesota. The Huskers were up 2-1 at Penn State last Saturday before the Nittany Lions made a comeback.
The Huskers had 11 service errors, including seven in the first set. The Huskers had 29 hitting errors — including a combined 21 from Lexi Sun and Jazz Sweet — and hit .087 for the match, the lowest mark in the John Cook era.
“We did a great job defensively on them,” the Nebraska coach said on his postgame radio show. “Forced them into a lot of errors, and I thought we did a really good job, but we didn’t side out very well and we were high-error.”
Nebraska (15-4, 6-3 Big Ten) dropped the first set but bounced back to take the second. The Huskers took 10 of the final 11 rallies in the third set, but Wisconsin, which had lost lost three of six matches coming in, was able to turn things around in the fourth set.
Wisconsin (13-4, 6-3) jumped to a 3-0 lead in the fifth set and Nebraska pulled to within 7-6 on a Lauren Stivrins kill and a Badger hitting error. But a Wisconsin ace keyed a run and pushed the lead back to 12-7. The Badgers closed the match on an 8-2 run.
“Again, we didn’t finish Games 4 and 5,” Cook said. “On the road, you can’t let easy points … I just go back to Game 4, we’re up 2-0, we get an overpass in the net (and) next thing you know we’re down 4-2. This team needs to learn, you’ve got to take advantage of every mistake the other team makes.”
The Badgers, who had 32 hitting errors, led 16-15 in the third set, but Nebraska rattled off 10 of the next 11 points to take a 2-1 edge. Sun had key kills down the stretch, including one that gave the Huskers a 21-17 lead. The sophomore followed with a service ace, and kills from Mikaela Foecke and Stivrins pushed the lead to 24-17. Nicklin Hames’ block sealed the set.
Wisconsin held a 13-12 lead in the second set before the Huskers finished on a 13-6 run. Sweet’s block gave the Huskers an 18-15 lead, and Hayley Densberger had back-to-back service aces late. The first one was initially called out, but Cook challenged the call and got a reversal.
“I thought Hayley served really well,” Cook said. “She had a lot of big runs for us and made a couple really nice plays.”
Seven service errors tripped the Huskers in the opening set, yet they only trailed by one point, 20-19, late in the set.
Wisconsin called a timeout and scored the next three points, including two on back-to-back kills from Madison Duello and Dana Rettke.
Foecke finished with a team-high 15 kills and 14 kills, and Sun addded 10 kills. Kenzie Maloney had 20 digs and a career-high nine set assists. She also had a pair of overdigs that resulted in kills.
Duello had 15 kills for the Badgers, who outdug the Huskers 94-77. The 94 digs were a school record for Wisconsin.
Nebraska will play at Minnesota at 7 p.m. Saturday on BTN.