In a match that kept the 4,097 in attendance on the edge of their seats, the Huskers saw sophomore Morgan Broekhuis lead the way with 17 kills. Junior Gina Mancuso notched her third double-double of the season with 15 kills and 11 digs for NU. Junior Lauren Cook posted 51 assists, tying her season-high mark, while junior Hannah Werth also tabbed a double-double with 10 kills and 11 digs in the match.
Nebraska's defense held the Gaels to a .148 hitting percentage, while the Huskers totaled 14.5 team blocks and 64 digs on the night. Saint Mary's recorded 32 errors in the match and nine team blocks.
The Huskers came out firing in the first set, taking a 3-2 lead before posting a 7-0 run. A kill by Werth made it 9-2, before a block by Broekhuis and senior Brooke Delano put Nebraska up 12-5. A long rally by both teams ended with a monstrous kill by Werth, giving the Huskers a 16-7 lead.
Nebraska went on a 4-0 run highlighted by back-to-back kills by senior Jordan Wilberger and Werth, en route to taking a 20-8 lead. The Huskers went on to claim the first set 25-13.
NU couldn't be stopped out of the gate, totaling 13 kills to Saint Mary's five in set one. Werth led NU with four kills on eight attempts, while Morgan Broekhuis had three of her own. Cook tallied 11 assists, while Nebraska out-dug the Gaels, 14-9. Both St. Mary's and Nebraska had two team blocks.
In the second set, the Gaels didn't back down to NU. Saint Mary's went on a 5-0 run, catapulted by a kill to make it 8-6. Broekhuis led the Huskers with a kill right out of a timeout. However, six errors plagued the Huskers in the set, as Saint Mary's took its biggest lead of the night at 17-11.
A kill by Delano made it 14-17, before Mancuso brought the Huskers within one at 17-18. But Nebraska could not secure the momentum and let Saint Mary's tally a four point lead at 24-20. The Gaels ended up clinching the set 25-21 and tied the match at one set apiece.
Mancuso, Delano and Broekhuis all had three kills for NU in the second set. Cook notched nine assists and two digs. The Gaels held NU to a .095 hitting percentage, while hitting .175 on their own. Nebraska also out blocked Saint Mary's five and a half to three, but let the Gaels tab 40 attacks.
Nebraska outlasted Saint Mary's in the third set to win 25-18. NU took the lead at 3-2 early in the match. The Gaels cut it to one point on 11 different occasions, while there were five ties in the match, the last at 11-11.
The Huskers and Gaels posted a long rally, punctuated by a giant kill by Broekhuis to make it 18-15 NU. Saint Mary's cut it to 20-16, but the Huskers answered with a solid double block by Cook and Wilberger to push Nebraska ahead at 22-16. The Huskers would only allow the Gaels two more points in the set before winning the third set 25-18.
Broekhuis posted three kills for NU in the third set, giving her a .400 hitting percentage. The Huskers tallied 28 attacks, compared to 33 for Saint Mary's. The Gaels out-dug NU 14-10, but the Huskers posted three blocks compared to zero for Saint Mary's.
In the fourth set St. Mary's gave the Huskers all they could handle and won 25-23. Nebraska could not recover from going down three early in the set, eventually falling 14-7 to the Gaels halfway through the set. The Huskers cut it to 17-16 on an error by St. Mary's and later tied it up at 19-all on a service error by the Gaels. At that point St. Mary's pulled away, going up 24-20. The Huskers kept fighting, cutting it to 24-23, but couldn't hold on as the Gaels won the set 25-23 and tied the match at two sets apiece.
The Huskers and Gaels kept pace with each other in the fourth set as NU hit .250 and Saint Mary's hit .256. Mancuso had five kills for the Huskers, while Cook aided NU with 12 assists. Nebraska out-dug Saint Mary's 19-18. Both teams made five errors in the set.
The Huskers took to the fifth set and didn't look back, taking an early 6-0 lead. Slowly the Gaels came inching back, cutting it to 11-9 on a service error by NU. Nebraska went up 13-10 on a kill by Werth, but saw Saint Mary's come back to make it 13-12 and eventually 14-13. A kill by Broekhuis ended the thriller at 15-13 and gave Nebraska the match 3-2.
Tonight's match marks the third time this year the Huskers have gone five sets. NU holds a 2-1 record when playing five sets in 2011, with their only loss coming at Colorado State on Sept. 2.
Nebraska will conclude the Ameritas Players Challenge tomorrow afternoon at the NU Coliseum with a match against undefeated Weber State at 2 p.m. Tomorrow's action will start with Creighton facing Saint Mary's at 11:30 a.m.