SAN DIEGO – The No. 2 Nebraska volleyball team began the SDSU/USD Invitational with a 3-1 (25-17, 25-14, 17-25, 25-17) win over Arizona on Friday evening at the Jenny Craig Pavilion.
The Huskers, who improved to 3-0 on the season, had three players with double-digit kills. Lexi Sun, who grew up 45 minutes up the road in Encinitas, had 15 kills with a .353 hitting percentage. Madi Kubik added a career-high 13 kills and 13 digs, and Jazz Sweet had 11 kills with a .320 hitting percentage.
The Huskers got off to a fast start with decisive wins in the first two sets. After hitting .373 through two sets, NU cooled off in set three, hitting -.081 as Arizona (2-2) won the set. The Huskers rebounded in set four to finish off the match. Although NU struggled offensively in the final two sets, they picked up their play defensively, holding Arizona to .091 and .056 hitting over the final two frames. For the match, NU out-hit Arizona .214 to .111. The Huskers had 12 more kills (52-40) and digs (69-57).
NU had a season-high nine blocks, led by four from Riley Zuhn. The true freshman appeared in her first career match after Callie Schwarzenbach went out in the first set with an injury. Zuhn paired three kills with her four blocks. The Huskers were also without Capri Davis, who is recovering from an injury.
Libero Kenzie Knuckles had a match-high 19 digs, and Nicklin Hames had 40 assists, 14 digs and three aces. Sun had three blocks to go with her 15 kills, and Lauren Stivrins added six kills and three blocks.
Set 1: The Huskers terminated six of their first 10 attacks and built a 7-3 lead with five different players recording kills. Sun’s third kill and an Arizona attacking error made it 11-7 Huskers, but the Wildcats pulled within 12-11 after a couple of Husker passing errors. Sweet connected for a sideout to keep the Huskers in front, 13-11. Arizona cut it to 15-14 with back-to-back kills, but Sun’s fourth kill made it 16-14 and started a 4-0 Big Red run. Arizona hit long before a Kubik blast from the back row and another kill by Sun made it 19-14 Huskers. An ace by Sun increased the lead to six, 22-16, and a double-contact error on Arizona made it 23-16. Sweet added her third kill for set point at 24-17, and Sun finished off the set at 25-17 with her seventh kill. NU out-hit Arizona .326 to .128 and had a 17-11 advantage in kills.
Set 2: Hames began the set with an ace, and Sweet smacked a kill before Zuhn tipped down a kill for a 3-0 lead and forced an Arizona timeout. The Huskers picked up where they left off, as Sweet and Sun added another pair of kills for a 5-0 Husker advantage, and Arizona used its final timeout of the set. Hames continued her long service run with another ace to make it 6-0 before Arizona finally got on the board. Zuhn and Kubik put down back-to-back kills to start a 7-0 run that made it 13-1. Zuhn and Kubik combined for a stuff block and had three kills during that stretch. The Wildcats rebounded with a 7-3 spurt to trim the Huskers’ lead to eight, 16-8. Stivrins hammered an overpass for a 21-12 Big Red lead, and Sun recorded back-to-back kills to get the lead back to double digits at 23-13. Kubik served NU’s fourth ace of the set for set point, and Stivrins completed the set at 25-14 with her fourth kill. NU hit .438 in the second set.
Set 3: Arizona got off to a strong start in set three, building an 8-2 lead with an ace, three kills and a block. Meanwhile the Huskers had one kill and four errors in their first 12 attacks of the set. The Wildcats’ lead grew to 18-7, and they led by as many as 12. The Huskers fought off three set points before Arizona claimed the 25-17 win. Although Arizona hit only .091 in the set, the Huskers hit -.081 and had just eight kills.
Set 4: Arizona’s momentum continued into set four, as the Wildcats bolted to a 5-2 lead. Kubik connected on back-to-back kills to get within 5-4, but Arizona went back up 8-5. Kubik notched another kill, and Arizona misfired twice to tie the score at 8-8. An Arizona net violation put NU on top, 11-10, and Hames served her third ace of the night before the Wildcats hit long to make it 13-10 Nebraska. On the next rally, Zuhn and Sun blocked an Arizona attack for a 14-10 Husker lead. Kubik powered down a kill before softly tipping one to the floor to put the Big Red on top 17-12. The lead went to 19-13 after Stivrins and Kubik terminated consecutive rallies. Kubik’s 13th kill and a block by Stivrins and Hames put NU ahead 21-15. Sun posted another kill, and Hames and Zuhn teamed up for a block to give NU match point at 24-16. The Huskers finished off the 25-17 win on a solo block by Sun.
Up Next: The Huskers will play No. 25 San Diego on Saturday at 9 p.m. (CT). The match will air on Husker Sports Network affiliates. The West Coast Conference Network will have a free live stream of the match at WCCSports.com.