By Lincoln Arneal
Nebraska tested one of coach John Cook’s adages that any Big Ten win is a good win.
The Huskers slogged through a block party against Maryland, hitting .099 and getting blocked 17 times by the Terrapins. In the end, NU got the last word at the net as Whitney Lauenstein and Kaitlyn Hord recorded blocks on the final two rallies of the match.
The third-ranked Huskers (12-1, 4-0) remained undefeated in the Big Ten with a 25-18, 25-23, 21-25, 25-22 victory Sunday afternoon in front of 2,113 fans at the XFINITY Center Pavilion, the second-largest crowd ever at the arena.
“Maryland played really hard. They were very inspired,” Cook said. “Hopefully, we’re gonna learn some things from this match, but we did find a way to win.”
Anastasia Russ led Maryland with 11 blocks, while Rainelle Jones added seven. The Terrapins’ total was the most blocks by an NU opponent since Penn State recorded 20 in 2018. Those stuffs came in spurts as the Terrapins tallied 10 blocks in the second set and six in the fourth.
NU middle blockers Bekka Allick and Hord were among the few bright spots for the Huskers. Allick tallied nine kills and hit .571 to go with four blocks. Hord finished hitting .333 with six kills and nine blocks.
“(Hord) and Jones are two of the premier middles in the country for blocking and those guys put on a show today,” Cook said.
Lauenstein led Nebraska with 11 kills but committed 10 hitting errors. She also added four aces, six blocks and seven digs. Senior Madi Kubik added nine kills and 11 digs and hit .167.
They weren’t the only hitters to struggle. Lindsay Krause (six kills, seven errors) Ally Batenhorst (one kill, two errors) and Kenzie Knuckles (no kills, two errors) all finished negative.
“They’re a good blocking team and we made a lot of dumb shots,” Cook said. “Our setters were very inconsistent and our hitters had no rhythm today. They were just trying to find a way, and so it was a combination of all those things.”
After Nebraska cruised in the first set behind a 9-0 run served by Lauenstein, the Terrapins rallied. They started the second set with three blocks in the first six rallies and led 5-2 early. Then, when NU reached set point at 24-18, Maryland ran off five straight points on a service error and four blocks.
The Huskers’ best-attacking set also resulted in the only set they dropped. NU hit .250 but was plagued by setting woes. Kennedi Orr committed four of her seven ball-handling errors. The Huskers also committed three service errors in the frame.
Anni Evans finished with 19 assists, while Orr added 18. Cook said part of the problem was Orr was trying to jump set on high passes, which causes too many moving parts and leads to double touches.
“On the high balls, she has to wait there and think about it and then she tries to jump set and time it and you can’t do that. You just got to use the ground,” Cook said. “We train that every day. Every day that she’s been at Nebraska, we train those high balls using the ground.”
NU appeared to have control of the fourth set, but the Terps went on a 5-0 run that included two blocks and two other Nebraska errors. However, the final three points were a Maryland service error and two Husker blocks.
Sophomore Lexi Rodriguez anchored the defense with 19 digs, while Knuckles added 10 digs and two aces.
Maryland failed to take advantage of NU’s shaky performance as it hit just .046 with 34 errors, only 13 of which came on Husker blocks.
The Terrapins’ offense was predictable as its two outside hitters – Sam Csire and Laila Ivey – combined for 107 of their 152 attacks. Csire finished with 14 kills and 18 errors, while Ivey had 12 kills and 10 errors. Maryland setter Sydney Dowler finished with four kills and 35 assists.
The Terp middle blockers (Russ and Jones) combined for just three kills on 16 attacks.
“(Dowler) basically set one ball all night to the left side,” Cook said. “Their middle attack was non-existent. … They run it really fast and she sets it out there, but we held them to .046, which is great.”