Lincoln – Jordan Larson totaled a match-high 16 kills, while the Nebraska volleyball team put together its best defensive effort of the season in a 25-14, 25-11, 25-20 victory over Baylor Wednesday night.
The Huskers (18-0, 9-0 Big 12) held Baylor to a season-low .000 hitting on 105 swings, marking the lowest hitting percentage against the Huskers in their last 58 Big 12 matches dating back to 2005. It also was the first time the Bears, who entered the match ranked third in the Big 12 in hitting percentage, were held to under .100 hitting.
Nebraska Coach John Cook was pleased by the Huskers’ efforts against a very good Baylor squad, as the Huskers took up the challenge of putting up a strong showing in their final match before their bye on Saturday. With the win, NU has now won 80 consecutive home matches, while Wednesday’s sellout crowd of 4,142 marked NU’s 113th consecutive home court sellout.
“I think we challenged them,” Cook said. “This is our seventh match in 14 days, and we challenged them by making this our best effort in the past seven matches. They know they’re going into a break and they knew what Baylor is capable of, and they just responded. They came out with energy and fire and played Husker volleyball tonight.”
Larson led the charge with 16 kills on .355 hitting and seven digs, while Kori Cooper and Tara Mueller added eight kills apiece. Cooper hit over .500 for the sixth time this year, finishing with a .538 percentage on 13 swings, while Sydney Anderson dished out 38 assists and added four kills and tied Amanda Gates for team-high honors with five blocks.
Nebraska not only out-blocked a Bears squad that led the conference in blocking 11-5, but also out-dug BU, 55-40 and allowed just one service ace to the league’s top serving squad. Kayla Banwarth keyed the NU effort with a match-high 18 digs, while Mueller and Rachel Schwartz chipped in 11 and nine digs, respectively.
“I just know the things we did on our side of the net were at a very high level tonight,” Cook said. “All of the skills were at a high level and we played at that level until the end of game three.”
Banwarth, who is averaging 5.83 digs per set over NU’s last four contests, said that tonight’s effort was the continuation of a strong week of practices.
“I think it was a reflection of practice this week,” Banwarth said. “I think practice has been intense, and we have gotten after it every day. I think it was a complete reflection of what it was today and how we’ve been practicing.”
Nebraska played one of its most complete sets in the opener, hitting .536 as a team and committing just one hitting error in a 25-14 victory. Larson paced the Big Red with six kills on 10 swings and added a solo block to help NU hold a 4-0 lead in that category. Nebraska raced out to a fast start, winning eight of the first 11 rallies to take an 8-3 lead after Larson’s solo stuff. After Baylor pulled to within 11-7, ran off three straight points as an Anderson ace and a stifling solo block by Licht made it 14-7 and forced Baylor to call timeout. Baylor made one last charge was within 17-11, but three straight Larson kills pushed the lead to nine points, and the Huskers were not challenged again.
Nebraska relied on its defense in the second set, holding the Bears to -.028 hitting in cruising to a 25-11 victory, its largest set win of the year. The Huskers used strong serving from Larson and Banwarth in a decisive 12-1 spurt, turning a one-point lead into an 18-6 cushion. Larson ran off five points from the line, including one of her two aces, while Banwarth used another 5-0 run, giving NU a commanding lead after Gates and Anderson combined on a block. Larson continued her strong offensive showing, drilling home five kills on 10 swings, while the Huskers out-blocked BU, 5-0 in the set.
In the finale, Nebraska took control early, building a substantial lead before cruising home with a 25-20 win. The Huskers held Baylor to .000 hitting, while Schwartz keyed the decisive spurt, running off six straight points at the service line to help NU take a 10-3 lead. The Bears clawed back to within 15-10, but the Huskers ran off five of the next six points to extend the margin to 20-11. Nebraska led 22-13 before Baylor used a 7-2 run to pull to within 24-20 on a service ace from Katie Sanders, but a service error of their own ended the match and handed NU its sixth straight sweep.
Briana Tolbert and Sanders led BU (12-6, 4-4 Big 12) with five kills apiece in a losing effort, as the Bears fell to Nebraska for the 26th consecutive time.
The Huskers return to action on Wednesday, Oct. 22, when they host the Texas A&M Aggies at 7 p.m. The match will be carried on the Husker Sports Network and televised by NET Television.