Huskers Move to 8-0, Down No. 5 Stanford

By Lincoln Arneal

Stanford had the play snuffed out, or so it thought. 

The Cardinal rejected a quick attack by Nebraska’s Bekka Allick and sent the ball back toward the end line. However, freshman Laney Choboy made a diving save to keep the ball alive. Lexi Rodriguez dove and punched the ball up where Bergen Reilly could send it over. 

Perhaps Stanford was stunned the rally was still alive. Caitie Baird overpassed the free ball, and Harper Murray slammed home the kill to give the fourth-ranked Huskers a 19-15 lead in the fourth set.

Not long after, Nebraska put the finishing touches on a 25-23, 25-16, 19-25, 25-21 win over No. 5 Stanford Tuesday evening at Maples Pavilion in Palo Alto, California. The victory was the first-ever for the Huskers at Stanford and the first over the Cardinal since 2008. 

“That play that Laney made, not letting the ball hit the floor – that messes with teams,” NU coach John Cook said in a postgame radio interview. “When it’s supposed to be a kill, and all of a sudden here it comes back over, it’s a two-point swing.”

The Huskers (8-0) used solid floor defense and an efficient offense to stymie Stanford. Allick was part of eight of NU’s 11 blocks, and the Huskers’ floor defense contributed 38 digs, led by 12 from Rodriguez, as they chased down Stanford attacks. 

Cook said he was proud of his team’s ability to pull out a deuce game in the first set. After dropping three two-point sets during the past two meetings with the Cardinal, the Huskers erased a 21-20 deficit in the first set and won five of the final seven rallies with Merritt Beason ending it with a kill. 

“That was a huge two-point game to win on the road at Stanford,” Cook said. “We weren’t playing that well in the first game. But we talk about that all the time, we got to win two-point games.”

The critical run in the first set came with Murray at the service line and trailing 14-13. She found the floor twice for two of her three aces in the match to put the Huskers in front. 

The second set might have been the Huskers’ best set of the season. NU terminated 17 of its 23 attacks with just one hitting error for a .696 hitting percentage. 

The Huskers jumped out quickly with kills on their first six swings as all five attackers got in on the action to help them to a 7-2 lead in the set. Stanford trimmed its deficit to 17-13 after back-to-back aces, but NU pulled away late. 

The set ended on a Stanford service error. The Cardinal missed on 15 serves for the match, while the Huskers committed 17 service errors. Despite all the miscues, Cook said NU picked up its level when it mattered.

“They serve really tough. They missed, but we missed a lot. We finally started serving tough Game 4. I just told them, ‘You guys, we have to start going after serving.’ Bergen (Reilly) started it off for us, and really, we ran a ton of points in her rotation serving and she started pumping it.”

The Cardinal (5-2) finally closed a set, winning nine of the final 11 rallies in the third set after NU led 17-16. 

Baird came alive with seven of her team-high 15 kills in the set. She hit .400 for the match. Fifth-year senior opposite Kendall Kipp added 12 kills. Sophomore outside Elia Rubin finished with seven kills but also committed 11 hitting errors. 

“Stanford’s a great team,” Cook said. “They got some great players. This is a whole nother level than what we’ve been playing.”

For the match, NU hit .333, while limiting Stanford to .218, more than 100 points lower than its season average. 

Beason led the Huskers with 15 kills, while Murray added 12 kills on a .417 hitting percentage. Freshman middle blocker Andi Jackson added eight kills on 13 swings, while Allick and Lindsay Krause finished with seven kills each. 

The victory was the Huskers’ first regular-season road win against a top-five team since 2017 at No. 2 Penn State. 

The win should also be a big boost to the young Huskers as they passed the toughest test of the season. Stanford owns wins over three other ranked teams this season – No. 7 Texas, No. 10 Minnesota and No. 15 Ohio State. 

NU still has a tough road ahead with four more matches against ranked opponents in the next two weeks. 

“It’s early in the season, but we talked about that this was a big test for us coming out here and we want to see how we respond,” Cook said. “Hopefully, we’ll build some confidence from this and they know they can play at a really high level.”

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