Lincoln - The Nebraska volleyball team finished its spring schedule on Saturday night with a 3-2 (25-19, 25-18, 33-35, 25-27, 16-14) win over Tianjin Bridgestone, one of the top professional teams in China, in front of 2,340 fans at the NU Coliseum. Saturday night's match was Tianjin's fourth match of an eight-match trip across the country. They opened with a 3-2 loss to Illinois before beating Kansas State (5-0) and Creighton (4-0).
Gina Mancuso led the Huskers with her third double-double of the spring as the junior produced a match-high 21 kills and added 12 digs. Morgan Broekhuis and Lauren Cook also had double-double for the Huskers as Broekhuis had 19 kills and 14 digs while Cook put up 55 assists and tied for the team high in digs with 18. Tianjin was led offensively by Zhang Xiaoyu's 16 kills, while three others had 14 kills apiece.
The match was a defensive battle as neither squad hit over .200 with NU hitting .190 and Tianjin swinging at a .163 clip. The Huskers block was the difference as they out blocked Tianjin 15-11, including three solo stuffs and three block assists from Jordan Wilberger. Nebraska only had two more aces than Tianjin, 6-4, but Tianjin had six more service errors than the Huskers, 16-10.
The Huskers jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the match with a 25-19 win in set one. Mancuso led the NU attack with four kills and no errors on 10 swings, while Broekhuis chipped in another three kills and Cook put up nine assists and an ace. The Huskers only hit .222 in the set, but Nebraska's defense held Tianjin to .196 hitting. Tianjin could never find its serving rhythm as they committed five service errors in the set. Lui Ya led Tianjin with five kills in the set, but also had two errors on 13 swings to hit .231.
Nebraska dialed up the defense in set two behind three blocks from Hayley Thramer and two from Broekhuis. Tianjin committed five more service errors in set two and only produced eight kills on 27 swings to hit .037. Mancuso again led the way for NU with three kills, while Wilberger, Broekhuis and Hannah Werth each added two kills apiece. Nebraska also added to its ace total with one each from Mancuso and Paige Hubl. Zhang Xiaoyu was Tianjin's lone bright spot in the set with three kills on six swings, an ace and one block.
Set three was one of the longest sets in recent memory at the NU Coliseum with Tianjin eventually winning its first set of the night, 35-33. The Huskers kept Tianjin from winning the set six times, but was unable to produce a seventh stop as a kill from Lui Ya sealed the win for Tianjin. Both teams picked up the offense as NU hit .311 and Tianjin hit .296, while the two teams combined for 44 assists. Mancuso had a set-high eight kills and Sun Mingjian led Tianjin with seven kills.
Tianjin's momentum carried over into set four as they tied the match at 2-2 with a 27-25 win. Tianjin hit just .106 in the set, but the Huskers struggled even more and hit .060, including negative marks for Wilberger, Mancuso and Werth. Even though the offense sputtered, the NU's defense played tough with six players recording a block assist, including three from Allison McNeal and two each from Wilberger and Cook.
The final set was a back-and-fourth struggle until late in the match when Tianjin pulled away and had match point at 14-10. The Huskers would not be denied though as Broekhuis put away a kill and then freshman Lara Dykstra served five straight points, capped by a Broekhuis kill, to win the set and the match for Nebraska, 16-14. Broekhuis was the Huskers' offense in the final set as the sophomore put home five of the Huskers' eight kills while Mancuso had the other three. Wilberger stepped up her defense down the stretch as well with two blocks during the final 6-0 run.
With the 2011 spring schedule now complete fans can look forward to the start of the regular season. The Huskers will open the year in Albuquerque, N.M., at the New Mexico Tournament. Nebraska will play New Mexico State on Friday, Aug. 26 and New Mexico on Saturday, Aug. 27. The Huskers' first Big Ten Conference match comes on Wednesday, Sept. 21 when Nebraska hosts four-time defending NCAA champion Penn State at the NU Coliseum.