With a conference title on the line, the No. 11 Nebraska volleyball team gave No. 5 Wisconsin a fight Friday afternoon but fell 3-1 (25-14, 23-25, 24-26, 18-25) at UW Field House. The Badgers (24-3, 16-3 Big Ten) claimed at least a share of this year’s Big Ten championship, while the Huskers drop to 20-7 (15-4) on the season.
Nebraska remains in contention for a share of the conference title. With a win over No. 6 Purdue and a Badger loss to Indiana on Saturday, the Huskers would be co-champions with Wisconsin.
Madi Kubik paced NU with a team-leading 15 kills alongside eight digs, two blocks and an ace.
Lauren Stivrins added nine kills on .421 hitting with four blocks. Kayla Caffey finished with seven kills and six blocks, and Lexi Sun matched her with seven kills and four more blocks. Whitney Lauenstein, who made her first start since Sept. 8, was credited with six kills and three stops at the net.
Nicklin Hames totaled 36 assists with eight digs, a block and an ace for the night.
Keonilei Akana led the way at the service line, tying her career high with five aces alongside seven digs. Lexi Rodriguez had a team-high 13 digs with five assists, and Kenzie Knuckles chipped in nine digs with four kills and two aces.
As a team, NU hit .168 to Wisconsin’s .225. The Huskers had a 10-4 advantage in aces, but the Badgers had the upper hand in kills (55-50), assists (53-43), digs (63-55) and blocks (14-10).
Three UW players had double-digit kill performances, topped by 18 by Dana Rettke on .484 hitting, and she added seven blocks. Grace Loberg also had 14 kills, and Devyn Robinson finished with 10 kills and seven blocks. Sydney Hilley had a double-double on 48 assists and 11 digs, and Lauren Barnes led the match with 22 digs.
A dominant Nebraska led nearly the entire set, working out to a quick 10-5 advantage on a 5-0 run bookended by two Lauenstein kills. It increased to 15-10 before by the media timeout.
Three Badger errors, kills by Sun and Stivrins and an Akana ace extended the lead to 21-14 before UW took a timeout. NU ended the set on a 6-0 run with Akana at the service line, and her three aces propelled the Huskers to the 25-14 win.
Nebraska hit .462 with just two attack errors in the opening set, powered by five kills apiece from Lauenstein and Kubik. Lauenstein’s kills came on nine swings with no errors (.556). Wisconsin hit at a .308 clip with four kills from Loberg.
Three short runs aided Nebraska early in set two. The first gave them the lead at 8-7, capped by an Anni Evans ace. Caffey singlehandedly powered the next, with a kill and back-to-back blocks with Sun pushing it to 11-8. Another 3-0 run — boosted by a Lauenstein kill and a Lauenstein/Stivrins block — made it 15-12 by the media timeout.
Akana’s fourth ace of the night extended the lead to 17-14 before UW began to chip away. With NU up 19-17 after a Stivrins kill, the Badgers knotted it at 19-19 on consecutive kills of their own before an NU timeout.
Caffey followed with a kill, but UW used a Rettke kill and two Husker attack errors to regain the lead at 22-20 before NU took its final break. A Badger service error and a Knuckles kill out of the back row brought the set to a 22-22 lock, but UW got it to set point on a Husker serving error and a kill by Jade Demps. NU fought off set point with a Kubik kill on the next rally, but Robinson terminated for UW to cap it, 25-23.
Kubik had four kills in the set, while Sun and Caffey each had a pair of blocks. The Badgers outblocked NU, 5-3.
The Badgers came out swinging at .615 (8-0-13) out of the gate. They built an 8-3 advantage to start, but a 4-1 run on kills from Hames, Caffey and Kubik trimmed it to 9-7.
Trailing 12-8, the Huskers rallied with a 7-2 spurt powered by Akana’s fifth ace and two blocks and two kills from Stivrins to take back the lead at 15-14. The set then locked four times, the last at 18-all on a Rettke kill down the line, before UW surged ahead 20-18. Caffey and Demps traded kills on either side, and NU took a timeout down 21-19.
NU again called for a timeout trailing 23-20, and Kubik and Stivrins answered the call with a block out of the break to halt UW’s momentum. Knuckles added a kill from the back row to cut it to one before a Badger timeout.
Facing set point at 24-22, the Huskers buckled down with a Knuckles kill and a huge ace by Kubik to tie it at 24-24. But the Badgers came out of a timeout with kills from Rettke and Loberg to seal it, 26-24.
Wisconsin worked to an early 5-1 advantage and increased it to 9-4 before an NU timeout. The Huskers eventually pulled within two when Stivrins terminated at 16-14, but UW responded with kills from Loberg and Rettke as well as two blocks to make it 20-14.
The Badgers used a 4-0 run with back-to-back aces from Giorgia Civita to reach match point at 24-15, but NU kept pushing to win the next three. A Caffey/Lauenstein block and a Knuckles ace — the Huskers’ 10th of the night — prompted a Wisconsin timeout, but Rettke capped the night with a kill.
Noting Tonight’s Match
-Nebraska still leads the all-time series with Wisconsin 19-10-1. It is tied 9-9 in the John Cook era and 8-8 as Big Ten peers. NU trails 4-6-1 on the road in the series.
-Tonight was the Huskers’ 10th match with 10 or more kills as a team.
-NU achieved its season high of 10 aces for the third time this year.
Nebraska concludes the regular season with a trip to No. 6 Purdue on Saturday, Nov. 27 at Holloway Gymnasium in West Lafayette, Ind. First serve is set for 8 p.m.