Lincoln – Despite a career night from All-American middle blocker Kori Cooper, fifth-ranked Nebraska dropped a five-set heartbreaker to Iowa State, losing 3-2 (18-25, 25-19, 23-25, 25-20, 15-12) to No. 14 Iowa State Wednesday evening in the NU Coliseum.
Cooper led four Huskers in double figures with a career-high 16 kills on .414 hitting and four blocks, but the Cyclones overcame a 2-1 deficit to take their first-ever win over Nebraska since the all-time series began in 1975.
Cooper’s previous high in kills was 14 at Missouri during her sophomore season and her performance against ISU marked the third time this season the senior finished in double figures. It was also the fourth time in the last six matches that Cooper hit at least .400.
Hannah Werth, Lindsey Licht and Brooke Delano all had at least 12 kills apiece for Nebraska (14-5, 7-3 Big 12), which saw its five-match win streak snapped. The Huskers were held to .160 hitting, including .000 in the finale, as the Cyclones (16-3, 8-2) recorded five blocks in the decisive fifth set.
Rachel Hockaday led three Iowa State players in double figures with a match-high 18 kills, while Victoria Henson and Jamie Straube chipped in 14 and 11 kills respectively. The Cyclones block was a major key, as ISU totaled 15 on the night, including eight by Straube and seven by Henson.
Nebraska out-dug Iowa State, 93-87, as Kayla Banwarth totaled a team-high 23 digs and Gina Mancuso added a career-high 16 off the bench. It marked Banwarth’s fourth straight match with at least 20 digs and the ninth time this season she eclipsed that total. Both Sydney Anderson (56 assists and 10 digs) and Werth (13 kills and 17 digs) posted double-doubles in the loss.
Nebraska relied on its outside hitters in the opener, posting a 25-18 victory. NU hit .357 in the opening set while holding the Cyclones to .073. Werth and Tara Mueller combined for most of offensive firepower, combining for nine kills on .411 hitting. The Huskers trailed 8-6 before running off four a Cooper helped ignite a 7-1 Husker run. She began the spurt with a kill and combined with Licht on a block to tie the score before a pair of ISU hitting errors gave the Huskers a two-point lead. NU eventually pushed the margin to four points, at 13-9, after a Cyclone miscue. After ISU pulled to within 14-12, Mueller put down a pair of kill to begin a run of five straight points, capped by a block by Delano and Anderson that made it 19-12. Nebraska eventually led 20-14 before ISU rolled off three straight points, including consecutive kills from Hockaday, to cut the lead to three points and force a timeout. That would be as close as the Cyclones would get, as a service error, a kill from Cooper and two kills by Werth highlighted a 4-0 run that pushed the lead back to seven points, at 24-17.
In the second set, the Huskers struggled with their offensive attack, committing 12 errors in a 25-19 loss to the Cyclones. Cooper led the Huskers with three kills, while Delano had two kills and a pair of blocks, as the Huskers hit -.043 in the set. The first half of the set was evenly played, as neither team led by more than three points through the first 26 rallies. With the score tied at 13, a Husker attack error and a kill by Hockaday gave Iowa State a two-point lead at the media timeout. The run could continue, Iowa State ran off two more points to take a 17-13 lead on a Debbie Stadick kill to force Nebraska to take a timeout. The Huskers would regroup, winning four of the next five rallies to get within 18-17 after a Mueller kill to force Iowa State to take timeout. That would be as close as Nebraska would get, as two quick Cyclone points made it a 20-17 lead after a Stadick kill before a Mueller kill made it a two-point deficit. Iowa State pushed the lead to 22-18 after a Straube kill and closed out the set moments later to send the match tied heading into the locker room.
The third set was a battle throughout, as Nebraska overcame a four-point deficit and used a late rally to take a 25-23 victory. The Huskers, who didn’t lead until taking a 23-22 lead, out-hit ISU, .233-.225, as Licht came up big with six kills on .412 hitting and a block, while Cooper put down five kills on seven swings. Nebraska trailed 10-7 before kills by Werth and Cooper and a service ace from Anderson tied the score at 10-all. The teams traded points until it was 13-all when Kaylee Manns found the floor and a Husker hitting error gave Iowa State a two-point lead at the media timeout. Iowa State extended the lead after a Henson kill and a Husker attack error pushed the Cyclones a four-point lead at 17-13.Nebraska fought back, winning four of the next five points to pull within 18-17 after a Cooper kill. After ISU scored two straight to push the lead back to three points, Nebraska came right back to win four of the next five points, pulling even at 21 after kills from Licht and Cooper to force a Cyclone timeout. Down 22-21, Nebraska ran off three straight points, tying the score on a Cooper kill before an extended rally was ended, as Licht found the floor with a kill to give NU its first lead of the set. NU continued to apply the pressure, taking a 24-22 lead on a block from Delano and Cooper. After a Husker service error, Iowa State was unable to capitalize, as a Cyclone service error gave the Huskers the set.
In the fourth set, Iowa State played its best set of the evening, hitting .447 in pulling away late for a 25-21 victory. Straube and Hockaday had six kills apiece for the Cyclones, while Cooper and Delano combined for 12 kills for the Huskers, who hit .292 in the set. Delano had seven of her 12 kills in the fourth set alone. Nebraska trailed by as many as three points early on before chipping away at the ISU lead and finally tied the score at 18 after a Delano kill. NU tied it again at 19-all after a Mueller kill. From there, ISU took over, as a kill from Hockaday and a block by Stadick and Manns pushed the lead to two points and forced a Husker timeout. The Huskers closed to within 21-20 after a Delano kill, but two straight swings by Henson pushed the lead to three points, as the Cyclones sent the match to a fifth set with a game closing the set on a 6-2 run.
In the finale, the Huskers trailed 4-2 before running off four straight points on the serving of Banwarth, taking a 6-4 lead after a Delano kill. ISU came back with two points before a Cyclone service error gave the Huskers their final lead at 7-6. Nebraska had a costly service error start a run of four straight Cyclone points that made it 10-7 after Henson’s solo block. The Huskers got to within two points on several occasions, the last being 14-12 after Licht’s kill, but the Cyclone defense stiffened and got a block from Straube and Hockaday on match point, ending 34 years of dropping matches to the Huskers.
The Huskers return to action on Saturday night when Oklahoma comes to town. First serve is set for 7 p.m. and the match will be carried on the Husker Sports Network and on Huskers.com. In addition, the match will be video-streamed live on HuskersNside.
Nebraska Coach John Cook
“Thirty-four attack errors and there’s the game, and we went sloppy in game five, so we didn’t learn our lesson from UCLA.”
On the frustration of this match
“It’s just upsetting that these guys didn’t attack to win game five. We should have won game two, but we came out and hit negative. You just can’t do that against a top-15, top-10 team and expect to win. We just gave them too many chances and went soft in the end. We made 34 attack errors. We’re hitting balls that are going into the luxury seats over there. They’re not even close to the blocker in the court and then we’re tipping balls in game five. That’s the difference. That’s what Iowa State wants you to do, get in the tip-rally game, slop game with them.
That’s what they want.”
On what Nebraska can take away from the fight of the match
“The only thing to take away is that Iowa State deserved this match and outplayed us. That’s what we have to take away. If we want to be a team like Iowa State, if we want to be in the upper half of the Big 12, we had better learn how to compete and how to play and when to serve the ball in the court, when not to shank balls in the stands, and when to hit it in the court. I bet you if you totaled up Victoria Henson’s numbers, probably 50 percent of her hits were tips, and she outhit both of our left sides.”
Middle Blocker Kori Cooper
On the difference between set two and set three
“I think that set three we really just came out with a sense of urgency. I think we probably made more errors in the set that we lost. I think the most important thing we can take from this is that we’re not going to let a loss beat us twice. You can break it down, you can look at it by set, by point, by rotation, but Iowa State outplayed us and that’s the bottom line. Echoing what Coach Cook said tonight, they deserved the win tonight. I don’t think breaking that down, saying what’s the difference here or there, Iowa State outplayed us.”
On tonight’s loss
“I think little things break down – communication, not turning free balls into good passes, I think that the little things break down and when the little things break down, we’re not playing Nebraska volleyball. Again, echoing what Coach Cook said, that wasn’t Nebraska volleyball and we have some big strides we have to take in the next few weeks.”
On coming into this match
“I thought that before tonight we had made some big steps forward, but Iowa State came to play and we didn’t show up. They deserved to win.”
Iowa State Coach Christy Johnson-Lynch
On what it means for Iowa State to win
“Well, we said we’re 1-76 now. Of course,it’s a huge milestone for our program. I always do get real excited about things like this, but I try not to think it’s everything. We’ve had kind of a checklist and milestones along the way for getting to the tournament, getting to the Sweet 16, the Elite Eight, getting ranked, and we felt like this was one thing we hadn’t achieved yet was defeating Nebraska. That alone is exciting. I’m excited about the team coming into this environment and winning. Not a lot of teams do that. I’m excited for the team and excited for the program because it’s an important win and one that we’ll remember for a long, long time.”
On feeling different coming into tonight’s match
“Personally, I didn’t feel different. Honestly, when I come in here, I don’t know if we’re going to get blown out or beat them. That’s how I came in today. Every season, every match is different. It has its own life. I really didn’t know what would happen, but I do think our players in general have felt just a little bit more confident every year. I really thought they believed last year could be the year, but I think this year they were confident that physically we matched up pretty well. This is probably the most athletic team that we’ve had in the program so far. I think they just sensed that, if nothing else, we just matched up physically with them.”
On Jamie Straube
“She came out big tonight. She has been great blocking, but she’s been a little bit off offensively. I felt like this was the first night I’ve seen her be really aggressive and make an impact offensively. I’m really excited for that. I didn’t know how she’d play. This is a huge match for someone that’s from Nebraska. She could have just as well come in here and been incredibly nervous and made a lot of errors and played tentative. I was pretty proud of the way she performed, which is she was really aggressive, she didn’t act like a freshman, she had great body language. She just exuded a lot of confidence.”