Omaha - Sixteenth-ranked Michigan upset the third-ranked Nebraska volleyball team on Friday night at the Runza/AVCA Showcase at Qwest Center Omaha, winning 25-23, 25-21, 25-17 to become the first team to sweep the Huskers since 2007.
In front of a pro-Husker crowd of 5,772, Nebraska started strong, as the Huskers either led or were tied for 19 of the first 21 rallies. From there, it was all Michigan, as the Wolverines were either tied or held the lead for 73 of the final 78 rallies in handing the Huskers their season-opening loss since 1999.
The Wolverines, who had never taken a set off Nebraska in three previous meetings, picked up their program's first-ever win over a top-five team while becoming only the second team ever to beat the Huskers at the Qwest Center.
Nebraska meanwhile suffered a pair of firsts under 10th-year head coach John Cook. The Huskers lost a season opener for the first time under Cook, while Nebraska lost for the first time in nine matches under Cook at the prestigious AVCA Showcase.
Michigan out-hit Nebraska .250 to .133 while totaling five more kills. Defensively, the Huskers out-blocked the Wolverines 6-4, while the digs were even at 45 apiece. Fueled by nine kills in the first set, Michigan’s Alex Hunt led all players with 14 kills while hitting at a .406 clip. Two other Wolverines terminated at least one-third of their kills, as Veronica Rood put down six kills with only one error in 13 swings (.385), while Megan Bower pounded out four kills on 12 errorless swings.
With the Wolverines were efficient in their offensive attack - highlighted by a .478 hitting percentage in the final set - Nebraska struggled. Kori Cooper was effective in the middle, totaling six kills on only 11 swings, hitting a match-high .455 in her first match following knee surgery last November. Lindsey Licht and Brooke Delano tied for team-high honors with seven kills apiece, but the Huskers' struggled to find a consistent rhythm offensively.
Licht got Nebraska off to a strong start in set one, helping the Huskers build a 4-1 lead with a block and two kills. Michigan fought back and used three straight points to take a 13-11 advantage and never trailed again in the opening set. The Wolverines led by at least two points until an attacking error trimmed their lead to 22-21. Trailing 24-22, Nebraska fended off one set point before Hunt pounded a kill to give Michigan the first set. Hunt was outstanding in the set, finishing with nine kills on 15 errorless swings. Michigan hit .227 in the set while Nebraska attacked at a .237 clip, led by four kills on five swings from Cooper.
Just as it did in set one, Michigan built a lead midway through set two. The Wolverines led 13-8 lead on the strength of a balanced attack and five Husker errors. Following a Nebraska timeout, the teams traded side outs before the Huskers rattled off three straight points to trim the lead to two. But back-to-back NU errors pushed the lead back to four before the Huskers rallied. Nebraska used a 5-0 run, fueled by a pair of Delano kills to take a 17-16 lead with Kayla Banwarth at the service line. Michigan came back with a block and a kill to regain the lead and the Wolverines never trailed again. Leading 24-21, Hunt gave Michigan a 2-0 lead with an ace. In the second set, Nebraska hit just .024, committing nine attack errors to Michigan's six, despite out-blocking the Wolverines 4-2.
Michigan was at its best in set three. Nebraska led for only two rallies and the Wolverines stretched a 9-7 advantage into a commanding 20-11 lead with an 11-4 spurt. After a mini Nebraska run cut the lead to seven twice, Michigan closed out the match on the Huskers' 21st attack error of the match. The Wolverines committed only one error in the third set, hitting an impressive .478.
The Huskers conclude play at the Runza/AVCA Showcase on Saturday night at 8:30 against No. 11 Minnesota, a 3-2 winner over No. 22 Kansas State in Friday's first match. K-State and Michigan will face each other at 6 p.m. Saturday.
Michigan Head Coach Mark Rosen
“We’re very pleased that our team played well. I was pleased with our resilience. Obviously it’s hard when you’re in somebody else’s gym and you get their crowd. There were times in games two and three when the momentum shifted at times and we were able to be resilient. I think we served the ball really well and that’s something we kind of feel is important for our game. I thought we defended well and showed a lot of composure. We’re very pleased. I think Nebraska has a great team. They’re young and they’re going to be very good. It was a fun situation for us tonight.”
On Michigan’s experience
“In the first game you never know what you’re going to get. We have a lot of returning players, which certainly helps, so we have a lot of experience on the floor. We went on a foreign trip in the spring which helped us be advanced right now because we had that extra time. That’s certainly the purpose of that trip is to add that. I thought tonight throughout the match I saw situations where we’re benefiting from the fact that we had that opportunity and that experience - as far as the cohesiveness of this team and the trust within our team and the tempo with what we’re doing this early in the year really helped a lot. I think that was certainly a benefit.”
“Nebraska’s going through a transition. We’ve all gone through it. It’s just something you have to get through. They have a lot of talented players and a great staff and they’ll be very good, but it’s just going to take a while because they’re young.”
Nebraska Coach John Cook
“We got a good old butt kicking tonight. Michigan brought it and played great tonight. They put a lot of pressure on us and we did not do a very good job of handling it. This will be a great learning match for us. Michigan was a scary team for us to play. They went on a foreign tour, they got a lot of players back and they were much more organized and played much better as a team tonight than we did.”
On the feeling he got from tonight
“I saw Stanford do the same thing against us last year and they played for a national championship. I never try to put too much on the first weekend. It’s the first time out. We’ve got a lot of new players and it showed tonight. We’re trying to develop some leadership. Now if that happens a couple of weeks from now, it will be a big concern.”
On what happened as the match went on
“I think what happened as the match went on, we just started trying too hard. We had players doing too much, instead of just playing their position and doing that. That is part of their competitiveness. What happens is that whole thing starts breaking down, that’s when you see balls drop. Those are things we’ve got to work on. One of the best ways to work on that is to go through things like this.”
Junior Sydney Anderson
On her feelings on the match
“I think Coach said it pretty well. We didn’t play as a team tonight. It was not just one person, it was all of us (upperclassmen). There were six individuals out there and not a team.”
On how the team feels after tonight
“We talked about it. It’s a learning experience. We never want to feel this way again. Our team is too competitive to feel this way. We are a team that wants to be great. We are a team that wants to be great. When we don’t do that we feel like we are letting our team and our coaches down. We have never played like that before. I am kind of surprised as well.”