By Lincoln Arneal
Andi Jackson talks as fast as she plays.
The freshman middle blocker was a sensation in her first career start for Nebraska as she recorded eight kills on a .700 hitting percentage to go with four blocks.
Afterward, an excitable Jackson talked to the media about her experience on the court during the Huskers 25-10, 25-21, 25-16 win over Lipscomb Saturday at the Devaney Center.
Jackson didn’t wait long to impact the game as she terminated on her first four swings. She recorded her first career kill on an overpass. She added three more kills on slide attacks as she bounced the ball in front of the Lipscomb defense.
“It’s so fun,” Jackson said about the slide. “(Setters) Bergen (Reilly) and Kennedi (Orr), they dish it every single time. I have to give them credit. I wouldn’t be able to run it without them. I mean just hit over the block and around the block, and it’s like Coach says, it’s going to score every time.”
Jackson was one of two lineup changes for NU (2-0) from its opening night lineup. Jackson replaced sophomore Bekka Allick, while Ally Batenhorst started at outside hitter for Lindsay Krause.
The Huskers came out firing and jumped to a 10-2 lead. Reilly led NU to a .550 hitting percentage in the first set as NU amassed 13 kills. Freshman Harper Murray accounted for four kills, while junior Merritt Beason added three.
The second set unfolded quite differently. Lipscomb outside hitter Courtney Jones helped spark the Bisons with five kills on 10 attacks. Lipscomb led by as much as 19-13 before Nebraska snapped out of its funk.
Down 21-16, Lipscomb (0-2) gave NU a point with its 10th service error of the match. With Murray at the service line, Beason recorded back-to-back kills. Murray followed up with two aces sandwiched around a timeout. After Beason and Maggie Mendelson teamed up for a block, Batenhorst capped off the 9-0 run to win the set with three straight kills, two of which came on out-of-system assists from Lexi Rodriguez.
Beason said she’s seen her teammates rally after adversity every day in practice and was happy that they could translate that to a match and show how they don’t want to lose a set for the person next to them.
“We play like that every single day in practice. It doesn’t matter if we’re struggling in a drill – maybe we’re not playing very well that day, whatever. We find a way to get out of it,” Beason said. “I think it’s really cool for you guys to see that now. Obviously, we would like to work on not getting so far in a rut, but we do pull out of it. I think that shows a lot about our team. We show a lot of grit, and we just fight for each other.”
Reilly led a good showing by the Huskers’ offense, which finished with a .366 hitting percentage. Beason led the way with 11 kills, while the middle blockers were more involved as they combined for 21 attacks, and Mendelson added four kills.
Cook said Reilly, who finished with 29 assists, nine digs and two kills, did a good job creating one-on-one matchups in the middle and right pin as the Lipscomb blockers were releasing early to get to NU’s outside hitters.
“She did a good job of following the game plan and making good choices,” Cook said.
Murray added 10 kills at a .389 clip to go with three aces. Batenhorst finished with five kills, while Krause terminated on both her swings in a late appearance in the third set.
Rodriguez finished with 10 kills and surpassed 1,000 career digs with her third dig of the first set. Now in four-digits just two matches in her junior year, Rodriguez is on pace to top the NU career mark of 1,890 set by Justine Wong-Orantes in 2016.
After the match, when asked about the accomplishment, Cook jokingly asked, “What took her so long?”
Lipscomb finished hitting .091 led by seven kills from Jones. The Bisons tallied five aces but also committed 15 service errors.
The 8,583 fans at Saturday’s match marked the third most at the Devaney Center since 2013, only two people behind No. 2 – a 2014 match against Penn State. The record is 8,632 for a 2019 meeting versus Stanford, which featured the top two teams in the rankings. Nebraska added 400 seats on the upper bowl’s east and west ends during the offseason.
Nebraska closes the weekend against SMU on Sunday. The Mustangs (1-1) dropped its match against Utah State on Saturday.
Despite the loss, Cook said SMU should present a good challenge.
“They got some big arms and they got some athletes,” he said. “They play fast, so you have to be really disciplined.”