The No. 6 Nebraska volleyball team took No. 11 Minnesota to the brink in a five-set marathon Saturday night but fell 3-2 (22-25, 30-28, 21-25, 25-23, 9-15) at Maturi Pavilion. The Huskers are now to 16-5 (10-2 Big Ten), while UM improves to 14-6 (9-3).
Nicklin Hames is now tied for Nebraska’s rally-scoring era career assists record and shares second on the Huskers’ all-time list, having matched former Husker and current volunteer assistant coach Kelly Hunter (4,125 assists from 2013-17). Hames capped the evening with a season-best 53 assists, a career-high-tying 23 digs, three blocks, two kills and two aces en route to her 14th double-double of the season and her sixth in a row.
For the first time this season, five Huskers had double-figure kill performances on the night. Madi Kubiktallied her fourth double-double of the season on a team-leading 15 kills with 14 digs, three blocks and an ace to pace NU.
Kayla Caffey posted 11 kills with a career-high nine blocks to lead all players at the net.
Lexi Rodriguez totaled a season-high 27 digs to pace NU alongside five assists. Kenzie Knuckles and Keonilei Akana added 10 more digs each, and Knuckles chipped in two aces. Nebraska finished with a season-high 94 digs as a team.
Minnesota had the advantage in hitting percentage, .169 to .136, as well as aces (8-5) and digs (105-94). Nebraska had the upper hand in kills (68-59) and blocks (14-10).
Minnesota was led by double-doubles from Jenna Wenaas (22 kills, 19 digs) and Stephanie Samedy (20 kills, 25 digs) and Melani Shaffmaster (45 assists, 21 digs).
NU led 5-2 out of the gate, but the two teams battled to six ties up to 13-13 — the last on a Krause kill. The Huskers twice pulled within one, but a 7-1 Gopher run eventually got it to set point at 24-17. They fought back with four straight points on a Batenhorst kill, two UM attack errors and a Hames ace, prompting a Gopher timeout at 24-21. A UM ball handling error stretched the run to 5-0 and cut the differential to two, but the Gophers closed it out on the next point with a block to take the opening set 25-22.
Minnesota and Nebraska traded runs to start the second set, with the Gophers going up 3-0 before the Huskers tied it on a Caffey/Krause block, a Kubik kill and a Knuckles ace. The run extended to 7-0 as Caffey teamed up with Krause and Kubik for two more stops, followed by an ace and a kill by Knuckles for a 7-3 lead and a Gopher timeout.
Another short run from UM at 3-0 was stopped when Caffey hammered a kill, but the Gophers used an additional three-point spurt to regain the lead at 10-9. The Huskers drew the set even again at 10-10 on a Stivrins kill and 11-11 on a Hames/Stivrins block, but a 5-1 run put the Gophers ahead 16-13 before NU called for a break.
The Huskers still trailed but hung tough. UM hit set point on a Wenaas kill, and NU went to work from there, holding off seven set points to completion. A 4-0 run pulled things even at 24-all, and a Krause shot pushed it to 25-25. The Huskers finally the lead at 28-27 on a Krause kill and a Gopher attack error, but Samedy knotted it a final time. Stivrins added a kill, and she and Knuckles blocked Samedy to cap the marathon set, 30-28. The block was the first of Knuckles’ career, and a raucous celebration sent the Huskers to the locker room with the match tied 1-1.
Neither team could gain more than a two-point foothold until Minnesota went up 11-8 at the Huskers’ first timeout. The Gophers built to their largest lead at 21-13 before NU took another timeout.
A Samedy kill pushed UM to set point at 24-18, and the Huskers appeared primed for another late surge. Kubik issued back-to-back kills followed by a Gopher attack error, trimming it to 24-21 for a UM timeout. But Wenaas came out of the break with a kill, closing the set at 25-21.
The Huskers found themselves down 14-11 in set four, but Hames rattled off kill and an ace before a UM attacking error evened it at 14-14. Caffey then terminated and had consecutive blocks with Krause and Kubik for a 17-15 Husker advantage.
The set stalled four more times before NU built a 23-21 lead on the back of three straight kills from Hames, Sun and Stivrins. The teams traded point from there, with a Sun kill bringing it to set point at 24-22. A Caffey kill — her 10th of the night — sealed it for NU at 25-23 and sent the match to five. The Huskers outscored UM 5-2 to close the set.
The Huskers had six kills on their first seven swings but committed three early service errors in the decisive fifth set, which stood at 8-7 Minnesota by the media timeout. The Gophers surged out of a 9-9 tie with a 6-0 run to claim the set, 15-9.
Noting Tonight’s Match
-Tonight was Nebraska’s sixth match of the year with at least 10 blocks as a team.
-The Huskers’ 94 digs as a team were their highest total since 104 vs. Penn State on Nov. 2, 2018.
–Madi Kubik has led the Huskers in kills in 12 straight matches.
-The contest was Nebraska’s longest match of the season, lasting three hours and two minutes.