By Lincoln Arneal
There was no letdown for newly minted No. 1 Nebraska Friday night.
Coming off an electric win over formerly top-ranked Wisconsin last weekend, the Huskers were clinical in a 25-19, 25-17, 25-9 win over Maryland at the Devaney Center.
The Huskers scored the first three points of the match and began the following two sets with leads of 4-0 and 8-0, respectively.
Even though Maryland (14-9, 4-7) responded in the first set and took their only leads of the match at 4-3 and 5-4, the Huskers were not challenged most of the match.
While the crowd of 8,667 – the third largest ever at Devaney crowd – took a while to get into it, freshman setter Bergen Reilly said the Huskers wanted to set the tone early.
“We talk a lot about urgency in our gym, and I think that was exactly what we did at the beginning of the sets,” she said. “We could have done a little better job keeping that throughout the entire set, especially in the first two, but just having urgency from the beginning, taking away any momentum that they did have coming out of breaks and squashing whatever they have going for them.”
As for Harper Murray, she said she still had something to prove after last weekend. The freshman outside hitter hit negative over the first four sets against Wisconsin but then delivered an all-time performance in the fifth set with seven kills on nine swings, including kills for NU’s final four points.
Murray responded by finishing with 16 kills and a .433 hitting percentage against the Terrapins. She credited Reilly with building her confidence and putting her in positions to terminate.
“Just coming back and bouncing back from Wisconsin, I just needed to prove myself to myself and my team,” she said. “I felt like I didn’t give everything I could have in the Wisconsin match. So just coming out and try to do my best in this game.”
Reilly, the Big Ten Setter of the Week, filled the stat sheet with 34 assists, 10 digs, three kills on four swings and two blocks.
Junior opposite Merritt Beason added 10 kills and nine digs. Freshman middle blocker Andi Jackson added eight kills on 11 swings and four blocks, which tied Bekka Allick for the match high.
Nebraska also finished with its cleanest night from the service line in a month. NU snapped a streak of eight straight matches with double-digit service errors, which started against Purdue on Sept. 29.
Against Maryland, the Huskers missed just seven serves, with five errors in the first set.
Cook said he challenged the team after the opening set to clean up its serving after what he called one of the best weeks of practices they’ve had. The Huskers responded by erroring twice on their final 49 serves of the match.
Reilly said Cook told the team that it threw out all its training during the first set and it needed to trust its training when serving.
“We were kind of just fed up with it,” Reilly said about all the service errors over the past month. “We really dialed it in and that was a big part of this win.”
Beason led the charge for NU with two aces. Reilly served a match-high 21 times and didn’t miss any. She was at the service line when the Huskers started each set with the big runs.
Cook said sometimes the players lose focus at the end line, but they stepped up Friday. He’s OK with a few service errors if they are stressing the opponent and barely miss, but he doesn’t like the ones that hit the middle of the net or sail 10 feet past the end line.
“That’s what good serving can do to teams – you just put pressure on them over and over and over and it starts wearing on them,” Cook said. “You saw the result of that because we started really good in Game 2 and really good in Game 3.”
Maryland finished with just 21 kills. Sam Csire led the Terps with seven kills as she recorded four of their five kills in the third set. Maryland hit .023 for the match.
With the win, Nebraska (20-0, 11-0) equaled its best start since the 2008 team won its first 20 matches.
The Huskers will return to action Saturday night as they take on Rutgers at 7:30. The Scarlet Knights picked up their second conference win Friday with a 25-21, 24-26, 21-25, 25-21, 15-9 victory against Iowa.
Endicott Joins HOF
Earlier on Friday, former All-American Lori Endicott was inducted into the Nebraska Athletics Hall of Fame. She was recognized between the first two sets.
The 5-foot-9 Springfield, Missouri, native played opposite on the 1986 national runner-up team. She transitioned to setter her junior year and started setting records immediately. She still holds the record for assists in a match with 109 against Texas in 1988. Endicott was the first Husker to be named conference player of the year, earning the honor in 1987 and 1988.
She was the first Nebraska volleyball player to make the U.S. national team, serving as the starting setter in the 1992 and 1996 Olympics, winning a bronze medal in the Barcelona Games in 1992.