By Lincoln Arneal
In a battle between two top freshmen in the Big Ten, the advantage went to Bekka Allick and Nebraska.
The NU middle blocker played the best match of her young career with 12 kills on a .611 hitting percentage to go with four blocks. Purdue freshman Eva Hudson, who had recorded double-digit kills in every other match this year, finished with just seven kills and 10 errors on 35 attacks.
Third-ranked Nebraska won the battle of the freshmen and the match as it earned its fifth straight sweep with a 25-21, 25-20, 25-18 victory over No. 12 Purdue in front of a sold-out crowd of 2,415 at Holloway Gymnasium.
Allick, the reigning Big Ten freshman of the week, set a career-high in kills and reached double figures for the first time this year.
“(My setters) put the ball right where I needed it,” Allick said. “If there was an error, they were giving it right back. It was just trust in each other.”
Senior Nicklin Hames finished with 21 assists, while junior Anni Evans accounted for 16.
On the other side of the net, Hudson struggled all night. Three of her first four attacks were errors, and she ended the match on the bench after she was pulled midway through the third set.
The 6-foot-1 outside hitter entered the match leading the league with more than five kills per set and had won five freshman of the week honors and three players of the week awards as she appears to be the presumptive freshman of the year.
“Bekka Allick may have something to say about that,” NU coach John Cook said during a postgame radio interview.
Nebraska’s other middle blocker – senior Kaitlyn Hord – also had an efficient night as she terminated five times on eight swings. Cook said the game plan was to see the middle as much as possible.
“The only people who stopped our middles were our setters,” Cook said. “Our setters were in pretty good positions all night to make some pretty nice sets. We’ve got some firepower if we can do that.
As a team, Nebraska (17-1, 9-0 Big Ten) hit .295 as Madi Kubik tallied nine kills and nine digs. Ally Batenhorst chipped in seven kills, but Whitney Lauenstein and Lindsay Krause struggled with a combined eight kills and seven errors.
The first set was a tight affair as both teams sided out more than two-thirds of the time. The Huskers grabbed control with a 4-0 run for a 15-12 lead. After Purdue crept back in the set at 18-17, NU went on a 5-1 run and Allick took over with three kills.
Purdue took a 7-4 lead in the second set before Batenhorst warmed up with three kills during a 7-1 run. NU never relinquished the lead the rest of the way.
Lauenstein played her best stretch of the match to start the third set as she recorded two kills, a block and an ace serve while the Huskers jumped out to an 8-1 advantage. Purdue closed to 9-5 after three straight NU hitting errors, but it couldn’t get any closer.
The Huskers struggled to serve early with five errors in the first set but eventually turned around and kept the Boilermakers’ offense off-kilter. Lauenstein recorded two aces, and Kubik added another.
Purdue (15-4, 6-3) finished the match with a .140 hitting percentage, more than .100 points below its season average. Emma Ellis led the Boilermakers with nine kills, while Madeline Koch added eight.
“Our serving put Purdue in trouble, and they never really got into a rhythm tonight attacking,” Cook said.
Sophomore Lexi Rodriguez added nine digs, while Kenzie Knuckles chipped in seven. Lauenstein also tied the team-high with four blocks.
With the win, the Huskers stayed atop the league standings, one game ahead of Ohio State and Wisconsin. The Huskers had their third sweep against a ranked opponent in the past two weeks.
“I thought we played steady enough to win. We made enough plays to win but it wasn’t always pretty,” Cook said. “Any time you win against a ranked team like this 3-0 at their gym, especially this gym, it’s a pretty good night.”