Huskers Sweep Creighton; Set NCAA Mark
Lincoln – The sixth-ranked Nebraska volleyball team used a career night from middle blocker Jordan Wilberger to subdue Creighton, 3-0 (25-19, 25-23, 25-16) Tuesday night at the Nebraska Coliseum.
Wilberger, a junior from Scottsbluff, totaled a career-high 10 kills on .467 hitting and two blocks, as the Huskers established an NCAA record with their 88th consecutive home win. Wilberger, whose previous career high was seven kills set last year against Liberty, is hitting .522 in the last two matches, as the Huskers (2-1) rebounded from an opening-night loss to Michigan.
Tuesday’s win helped NU break the previous home win streak mark of 87 that Nebraska shared with Penn State between 1995 and 2000. The Huskers have not lost a home match dating back to 2004.
All-American Tara Mueller joined Wilberger in double figures with a match-high 12 kills on .333 hitting, as Nebraska’s offense turned in a balanced effort. Freshman Hannah Werth and sophomore Brooke Delano added eight and six kills, respectively, while Lindsey Licht added five kills and a match-high five blocks. All-American Sydney Anderson dished out 36 assists, as the Huskers hit .267, including .355 in the finale.
Nebraska jumped out to a quick lead in the opening set and led wire-to-wire in a 25-19 victory. Nebraska got big performances from the middle blocking duo of Wilberger and Delano, who combined for nine kills on 10 swings in the opening set. Delano had five kills and a pair of blocks, while Wilberger, making her first start of the year, was perfect on all four of her swings. Behind the strong serving of Anderson, the Huskers took control early, racing out to a 5-0 lead and forcing Creighton to take an early timeout. The Bluejays chipped away at the Husker lead, pulling to within 17-16 on a kill from Alicia Runge, but Mueller took over from there. The All-American came up with two straight kills to quickly push the margin back to three points at 19-16, as she tallied five kills in the opening set. The Bluejays made one last run and got to within 20-19, but would not pull closer, as a Wilberger kill sparked a run of five straight points to end the set.
While the Huskers relied on the middles in the opener, it was the two outside hitters that keyed a 25-23 victory in the second set. Mueller and Werth combined for nine kills on .467 hitting, as the Huskers withstood a Creighton comeback. The Huskers, who were out-hit in the set, .192-.171, used strong serving to build a seemingly comfortable 10-4 lead, only to see Creighton show spunk. The Huskers led by as much as six points, at 21-15, before the Bluejays used a 6-2 spurt to pull within 22-19 after a Jessica Houts block. The Huskers eventually pushed the lead back to 24-21 after a Werth kill, but Creighton rallied. A Husker service error and a block by Laurel Sanford and Alicia Runge made it a one-point lead and forced the Huskers to spend their second timeout. Werth then closed out the set, as she found a hole in the Bluejay defense to send the Nebraska to the locker room up 2-0.
There would be little suspense after the intermission, as Nebraska jumped out to a 9-3 lead and closed out the match with a 25-16 victory. The Huskers used a balanced attack, as five players had at least two kills including three apiece from Anderson, Licht and Mueller. The Bluejays made only one run, pulling to within 15-8, only to see the Huskers win five of the next five rallies to take a commanding 20-9 lead after a Werth kill. From there, the Huskers cruised to their first sweep of the season.
Alicia Runge led Creighton (1-2) with eight kills, as the Bluejays were held to .155 hitting and remained winless all-time against the Huskers.
The Huskers return to action this weekend, as they travel to LSU for the Tiger Classic. NU opens tournament play Friday morning against Louisiana-Lafayette. First serve is set for 11 a.m. and will be carried on selected Husker Sports Network stations and on Huskers.com. The matches are also scheduled to be streamed on the Internet on HuskersNside.
Nebraska Coach John Cook
“I was impressed by Creighton’s composure after the bad start. I thought they did a nice job and I like their team. They play good volleyball and they are low error. I think they did a good job. That team has a chance to really improve. At times, I think we did some great things tonight and then we did some bone-headed things. That’s frustrating for me as a coach. Again, we have great teaching moments now for practice tomorrow and going into this weekend. I guess It is good we’re not peaking out right now, but again, we changed our lineup tonight. Hannah (Werth) played and we’re really smooth with that. This week, our plan is to rotate Kori Cooper and rotate our outsides because we’re playing four matches in five days. I want to make sure these kids stay fresh and we’re developing three outside hitters and developing three middles blockers. Our passing was really good tonight, but sloppy at times and that’s frustrating.”
On Jordan Wilberger
“One of the things we took her here is because she was a good athlete; just not a very good volleyball player. I don’t think she ever had any expectations until last year when Cooper got hurt and she was thrown in there. Now I think Jordan has some expectations. She knows she can play at this level and that confidence from last year is allowing her to do this. That’s two big matches in a row she’s played. You can see how comfortable Sydney (Anderson) is setting her.”
On setting an NCAA record
“I have completely blocked that out of my mind because I didn’t want our players thinking about it and I didn’t want to be thinking about it. That’s pretty awesome. The first thing I think about is that this is a special place to play volleyball. I think it’s incredibly hard to be that consistent for the long of time. I give that credit to people like Jolene Emricson, our trainer, for keeping our players healthy over that span and Laura (Buttermore) for keeping us in great condition so we can be consistently good. I think that’s the business you’re in. Can you be good for that long of period of time? That’s one of the hardest things to do. That’s a reflection of Nebraska volleyball and our program, the way we approach it, how hard our kids work, and of course the fans always make a big difference. It’s pretty incredible when you think about it.”
Middle blocker Jordan Wilberger
“Coach tells us to trust our training so I just went out there and acted like it was a practice and had amazing sets so it was really easy. You kind of get used to stuff after the first couple of hits. You get in the groove of things and go with it.”
On differences between her game last year and this year
“I’m learning things about the game I didn’t learn before and it makes things a little easier when you learn about those things – just how the pass dictates where the ball’s going to go. When you learn about setter tendencies you catch on to those things.”
Creighton Coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth
“We’ve played two top-ten teams in the past three days, and we just have so many unknowns going into this season with so many young kids and inexperienced kids. I think we’re in the mix. Our goals are a conference championship and NCAA tournament bid, and I walk away from Saturday night and tonight and think those goals are potentially attainable. I really thought we lost our composure in game three and that was really disappointing so we’ll obviously have to go back and address those issues. Not a perfect game, but more importantly things we can build off of.”
On building the Creighton program
“I think it’s come a long way. I just love Creighton. I think we’re able to recruit kids. It’s a place where I would send my kid. I think our mantra is you’re going to have the best four years of your life. We don’t just try to build a volleyball program, we’re trying to build people. Fortunately, we get some recruits that buy into that philosophy, but we’re not nearly where we want to be. With the new facility that we opened last week, our program’s expectations went much higher.”