Huskers Handle Bluejays in Four-Set Victory

By Lincoln Arneal

It didn’t take long for both Nebraska and Creighton to throw out their scouting reports Wednesday night. 

The Huskers’ game plan changed drastically as Creighton was without Norah Sis, the All-Big East Player of the Year. Meanwhile, Bluejays coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth said they messed up their scout and played right into NU’s strength. 

The result of mismanaged scouting reports wasn’t pretty on the scoreboard as the first two sets were blowouts. Creighton eventually regrouped, but the fourth-ranked Huskers controlled the match with a dominant 25-9, 25-13, 23-25, 25-20 victory Wednesday night at the Devaney Center. 

Bernthal Booth said the Bluejays didn’t contain NU middle blocker Bekka Allick, who recorded seven kills on 10 attacks. Also, of the Bluejays’ eight serves in the first set, Lexi Rodriguez passed eight of them, which led to seven side outs for Nebraska. For the match, the junior libero finished with 14 digs and successfully passed all 15 serves that came at her. 

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“Maybe we messed up on our scouting report as far as very, very specific things we needed to do and it hindered our players a little bit to be who they are,” Bernthal Booth said. “We freed them up later to go do what you do and I think that helped us some.”

Bernthal Booth said Sis suffered an abdominal injury on Tuesday. She didn’t know how long she’d be out. As a result of her absence, the Bluejays flipped their lineup so Ava Martin was playing L1 position and played in all six rotations. 

Freshman Destiny Ndam-Simpson earned her first career start and put up a team-high 13 kills.

Meanwhile, the Huskers (6-0) could do no wrong in the first set. After holding a 6-5 lead, NU won 19 of the next 23 rallies. Lindsay Krause led the charge with three kills and a pair of blocks. The junior outside hitter amassed 12 kills on a .478 hitting percentage for the match. 

Coach John Cook said NU prepared for Sis and thought Creighton missed Sis’ passing. 

“They had a different lineup. They moved their hitters around, so everything was a little bit different,” he said. “That’s why it probably took them a while to get going. We were pretty good in Game 1 staying on it.”

Creighton struggled early with 13 hitting errors in the first set. NU recorded six of its 10 blocks in the first frame, led by four from Andi Jackson. 

The nine points were just the third time in Creighton history that it has been held to single digits. The other two times happened against Kentucky last season (five points) and against USC in 2015 (eight).

The Huskers pulled away in the second set as the offense hummed along with a .429 hitting percentage with 16 kills and just one error. 

However, CU regrouped and changed up its attack after intermission. Bernthal Booth moved Martin back to her usual L2 position, and the Bluejays fought back. 

The Huskers’ offense stagnated a bit as they recorded seven hitting errors. The passing also broke down, forcing them to rely on the pin hitters. In the middle, Jackson and Maggie Mendelson, who only played the third set, combined for just one attack in the set. 

The Huskers remedied that in the fourth set as Allick re-entered the game and recorded a kill on the third rally of the set. 

Cook credited Kendra Wait for willing the Bluejays back into the match. The junior setter finished with 32 assists, with five kills on seven attacks, an ace and a block. 

“Creighton is a very good team and their setter should be a first-team All-American,” he said. “She does amazing things. She just wills that team. She does great plays at the net. She gave us fits attacking and gave us fits with our blockers.”

Merritt Beason led the Huskers with 17 kills on 37 attacks, both match highs. Harper Murray added 10 kills and a pair of blocks. Freshman Bergan Reilly totaled 42 assists and 11 digs. 

After demolishing the NCAA attendance record last week with 92,003 in Memorial Stadium, the Huskers set another mark on Wednesday. They broke the Devaney Center record with 8,656 fans at the match, which is 24 more than were in the building for the Nebraska-Stanford match in 2019. 

“The biggest crowd here, that’s the respect for Nebraska and Creighton in this rivalry,” Cook said. “There’s Nebraska kids on the court. It’s a continuation of last Wednesday and a celebration of volleyball in the state. People want to be here on a Wednesday night. It’s pretty impressive.”

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