By Lincoln Arneal
Twice Indiana appeared to have earned a chance at set point in the second set.
That was until John Cook and his green card got involved.
The Nebraska coach successfully challenged two late points that were overturned and helped the Huskers score the final three points of the set.
Cook was 5-0 on replay challenges for the match, including four in the second set alone. After escaping in the second frame, the second-ranked Huskers cruised in the final two sets for a 23-25, 25-23, 25-15, 25-19 victory Saturday night in Bloomington.
“I’m just glad I was able to help our team win a few (points) by pulling out the green card,” Cook said. “That and timeouts. There’s not much else to do.”
With Indiana leading 23-22 in the second set, NU junior Merritt Beason was called for a hitting error as her attack sailed out. However, the Huskers on the court signaled for a touch, and Cook played the green card. The overturned call tied up the set.
On the next rally, IU outside hitter Morgan Geddes was credited with a kill, but again, Cook challenged the call. Nebraska (13-0, 4-0 Big Ten) was awarded the point after officials ruled the attack went outside the antenna. Then, Harper Murray closed out the set with a kill.
The perfect review night followed a 5-1 showing on challenges at Purdue on Friday, with the one loss coming on a de facto timeout late in the fourth set. Cook credited the players, assistant coach Jaylen Reyes and the grad managers for telling him when to pull the green card.
“Let’s just say I am batting 1.000 on the weekend,” Cook said. “I bet we broke a record for challenges.”
Cook continued his winning ways to start the third set as he turned the second point from a Purdue block to a kill from Beason. She came alive with five kills to help NU jump to a 7-2 lead.
After dropping the second set, Indiana (12-5, 2-2) struggled to maintain its high level of play after the disappointment of letting it get away. The Hoosiers hit .283 in the first two sets but .046 in the final two.
“They were on fire the first two games,” Cook said. “If we don’t win that second game, it might have been 3-0 because they had all the momentum. They were really playing great. And then we started wearing them down a little bit in Game 3 and Game 4.”
Beason put up eight kills in the third set on her way to a career-best 22 kills, eclipsing her previous high of 21 she recorded twice last season at Florida. She finished with a .400 hitting percentage to go with 12 digs. Murray racked up 17 kills at a .368 clip.
“Merritt was on fire, and Harper was killing balls in the red zone,” Cook said.
Lindsay Krause started the match for the first time in 18 days but traded off playing time with Ally Batenhorst. Krause found a groove in the fourth set as she terminated on all six swings and finished with 9 kills and a .471 hitting percentage.
Bergen Reilly recorded 53 assists as the Huskers hit .338 for the match. She also added three kills on five attacks and added a block.
“I thought Bergen played a hell of a match,” Cook said.
The Huskers also rotated middle blockers. Cook pulled Bekka Allick in the first set after he told the team to swing away during a timeout, and Allick tipped during the next rally. Maggie Mendelson finished with four kills, while freshman Andi Jackson added eight kills.
Despite NU recording 22 more kills than Indiana (65-43), the Hoosiers stayed close thanks to the Huskers’ struggles at the service line. Nebraska amassed 16 service errors, including seven from Murray, and just two aces. Indiana finished with three aces and seven errors.
Cook said he thought about taking Murray out, but Reyes talked him out of it.
“Jaylen was telling me to let (Murray) keep working through it,” he said. “I think she will. She’s got a great serve. I don’t know why she struggled tonight. She wasn’t trusting it and so we’ll work on it. If she can’t do better in practice, we’ll have to sub her out.”
The Hoosiers also won the battle at the net, outblocking NU 11-2. Avery Tatum and Savannah Kjolhede paced IU with 10 kills apiece.
Despite the struggles, Nebraska emerged from its first Big Ten road trip with a pair of wins in front of sold-out arenas. Saturday night’s crowd of 2,632 set a new Wilkinson Hall record.
Cook said they tried to prepare NU’s freshmen for the challenges of playing league matches on the road and taking everyone’s best shot.
“I think now they understand maybe more of what it’s like playing back-to-back on the road,” he said. “It’s a great weekend to get two Ws with the way those teams are playing against us. It is a great job by our team.”