Huskers Help K-State Break in New Arena with Sweep 

By Lincoln Arneal

MANHATTAN, Kansas — After playing in front of a world-record crowd of 92,003 on Wednesday night, handling 3,044 mostly purple-clad fans could have been a little bit of a letdown. 

Not to Merritt Beason. The Husker junior opposite said she relishes playing on the road. 

Beason finished with 10 kills and six blocks to help No. 4 Nebraska earn a 25-21, 25-15, 25-19 victory over Kansas State on Sunday afternoon in the Wildcats’ newly opened Morgan Family Arena.

“I might have the unpopular opinion of I’d rather play in front of an awake crowd than a home crowd,” Beason said. “It puts a little chip on your shoulder. I think I thrive in those kinds of environments. It’s a little more fun to hush up the crowd. You don’t hush up your own crowd.”

The Wildcats (4-1) played their first match in the new arena on Friday night against Omaha, but Sunday’s match was the first sellout. Because the entire arena was general admission, the line outside the building stretched several blocks when gates opened an hour before first serve. 

Nebraska also had to worry about dealing with a trap game as they were still riding the high after playing in Memorial Stadium. Beason said the players talked about moving on as a team and everyone bought in quickly. 


Husker coach John Cook said the team refocused on Kansas State on Friday and shut out distractions, a practice that should help them during conference season. 

“You’re gonna get a big emotional win, and you got to come back the next day,” Cook said. “We got to understand that you have to compete every point in college volleyball.”

Cook said the new gym had a familiar feel and it compares favorably to arenas recently built by Ohio State, Indiana and Iowa. 

“The environment was great,” Cook said. “I’m sure they played their best match of the year and we had to make some plays and make some adjustments. That’s a very experienced team and they got a really nice setter.”

Kansas State started hot but struggled to maintain its success. After hitting .220 in the first set, the Wildcats recorded 17 kills and 20 errors the rest of the match. 

The Wildcats mounted one final threat in the third set with leads at 12-7 and later at 16-14, but NU posted scoring streaks to rally. NU stacked a few kills and forced several KSU errors to take control of the match. 

“I just told them that these guys aren’t going away,” Cook said. “We put the pressure back on them, and that’s what enabled us to get a two-point lead and then kind of blew it up from there.”

The Huskers (5-0) were aided by a stellar performance from Andi Jackson. The freshman middle blocker terminated on 10 of her 12 swings with just one error. She also recorded five blocks, including on three straight plays in the first set. 

Freshman setter Bergen Reilly said she enjoys having someone like Jackson on her side, where she can throw the ball up and watch her go get it. 

“I think some teams are going to start to see that other people have left her alone, and I think she’ll have more blockers on her,” Reilly said. “It’s so great because she can just go over anyone.”

Lindsay Krause played her best match of the season with nine kills and a .286 hitting percentage to go with four blocks. Freshman outside hitter Harper Murray also tallied nine kills. 

Bekka Allick finished with three kills after being shut out for the first two sets but was a force on defense as she recorded seven blocks. 

Reilly notched a double-double with 29 assists and 12 digs, while junior libero Lexi Rodriguez added 11 digs. 

Reilly said playing a true road match will benefit the team later this season. Because of the players’ competitiveness, she said, when fans yell in their ears, it gives them more energy. 

“We’ve been talking a lot about belief and I think our belief level just went up today,” she said. “We had a rowdy environment all against us, and we’re used to having them for us. I think that was really good for us. It tested us but we had a lot of fun and I enjoyed it.”

Much Buzz about Stadium Match 

Cook said he watched the television broadcast of the stadium match Friday night and was impressed by the overall production by BTN and Nebraska Public Media. He called it “unreal.” It was a well-put-together show, from the drone light show to the interviews. 

“It was just visually spectacular,” he said. “That is going to be a famous broadcast for a long time.”

Cook and the players did an array of media following the match. Cook appeared on Fox News and later CNN with Ally Batenhorst. Beason also made an appearance on “Good Morning America” at 6:30 a.m. 

Reilly said she wished she had soaked in the environment more and wasn’t so focused on winning, but she had fun dancing with the team while watching the light show.  

“I wish I could relive that a million times over,” she said.

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