The Nebraska volleyball team earned a 3-0 (25-18, 25-22, 25-9) home sweep over Penn State to improve to 15-1 overall and 7-0 in the Big Ten. Here are a few initial reactions and takeaways from the victory.
A Historic Block Party
Nebraska’s blocking performance against the Nittany Lions was the kind of stat-stuffing night that doesn’t come around often.
The Huskers recorded 16 blocks in the three-set sweep over 14th-ranked Penn State. It was the highest single-match blocking total for the program since a 20-block outing in November 2018, which also came against Penn State. That 2018 mark came in a five-set thriller, however, making Friday’s 16 blocks in three sets significantly more impressive.
In fact, Nebraska’s 16 blocks rank second in the entire NCAA so far this year for blocks in a three-set match. Only New Orleans managed more (17) in a sweep over Prairie View A&M.
Graduate senior Kaitlyn Hord is quickly re-establishing herself as one of the top individual blockers in the country. She got in on nine blocks throughout the match against the team she represented for the past four years. Sophomore opposite Whitney Lauenstein was also a part of eight blocks, which helps demonstrate just how dependent Penn State was on its left sides. Few blocking tandems in the country have the potential to be as dynamic and dominant as Lauenstein and Hord.
Another Feather in the Cap
The Huskers came into the week as the #1 team in the nation in opponent hitting percentage. Friday’s performance indicates that they’re not ready to relinquish that top spot.
Penn State finished the night with a 0.017 hitting clip, by far its lowest single-match percentage this season. The Nittany Lions have become another team in a growing list of squads that have turned in their season-worst statistical hitting performance against the Huskers. Friday’s dominant sweep came as the Huskers only posted a .208 hitting percentage themselves, which further elevates the importance of these dominant defensive outings.
The Veteran Returns
Graduate senior Nicklin Hames made her triumphant return to the Husker lineup in Friday’s victory. Hames missed the last seven matches while dealing with an injury suffered in the Sept. 13 loss to Stanford.
The Penn State match helped give some insight into the tangible and intangible value of having Hames on the floor. The fifth-year setter finished with 20 assists while playing in the 6-2 alongside junior setter Anni Evans, who tallied six assists. Aside from Hames’ natural ability to run an offense, her rock-solid right-back defense was sorely missed during her absence.
Nebraska will surely keep harping on the desire to get the middles involved in the offense.
Hord proved throughout her time as a Nittany Lion that she has the potential to take over matches as an attacker. And, despite her blocking dominance in Friday’s win, Hord only put down two kills on ten swings in the contest.
The Husker coaching staff has reiterated that the multi-setter systems can make it challenging to get into a rhythm with a new roster addition like Hord. This was likely further complicated by Hames’ absence. There also aren’t many middles in the country playing as high above the net as Hord.
Meanwhile, true freshman Bekka Allick continues to find her footing in the offense and added six kills to her tally against the Nittany Lions.