By Lincoln Arneal
Nebraska’s setters fed the middle blockers and Bekka Allick and Kaitlyn Hord ate up the attention.
For the first night since the season opener, both NU middle blockers finished with a hitting percentage above .500. Allick tied for a team-high eight kills and hit .636 while Hord added six kills at a .500 clip.
The middles stood out in a balanced attack as the Huskers remained undefeated in league play with a 25-18, 25-23, 25-9 victory Thursday night in front of 4,178 fans at the Breslin Center.
Allick said the biggest difference in her performance was focusing on footwork.
“My feet are what is going to feed the beast and what’s gonna get me available in the first place,” the freshman middle blocker said. “My biggest priority is once I block and the ball is over is just to get off and find my setter.”
The third-ranked Huskers (13-1, 5-0 Big Ten) finished with just 81 attacks and more than a quarter of them went to the middle.
Nebraska struggled last week against Maryland with a .099 hitting percentage. NU coach John Cook said setters Anni Evans and Kennedi Orr, who recorded 15 and 13 assists, respectively, did a much better job this time out.
“I thought they did a great job of putting up hittable balls for hitters and we ran pretty good middle tonight,” he said. “I think it was a combination of understanding you’re not going to get great passes so we got to better the ball and then make good shots and good choices.”
Senior outside hitter Madi Kubik also finished with eight kills, while sophomore opposite Whitney Lauenstein tallied eight kills with a .462 hitting percentage. Lindsay Krause added five kills, while freshman Maggie Mendelson terminated four of her five attacks. As a team, NU hit .358 for the match.
“The (setters) were feeding us like just putting the ball where we best can hit it and just keeps us high and available but also holding us accountable with speed,” Allick said. “We were working really hard in the last couple of practices about pushing the tempo.”
On defense, Hord led the way with six blocks while sophomore libero Rodriguez finished with 11 digs.
Allick helped take control in the first set with four kills, including two during a 5-1 run that gave the Huskers a 13-7 advantage.
The second set featured the most drama as the Spartans eliminated a four-point deficit twice. Lauenstein provided the offense late as she scored NU’s final four points with kills.
The Huskers rolled in the third set, winning 20 of the final 26 rallies. Freshman Maisie Boesiger ran off a 7-0 run, including her first career ace.
“She’s got a great serve and we have a heck of a time passing her in practice,” Cook said. “She did a great job. She changed it up and made a big run.”
Michigan State (10-6, 1-4) struggled in the third set with just four kills and 10 errors. For the match, the Spartans hit .031. Aliyah Moore led the way with seven kills, but she also notched six errors.
MSU setter Julie Bishop was the Spartans third best attack with five kills, but some of those caught the ire of Cook who claimed she was hitting the ball downward on dumps when she was a back-row attack.
The Huskers are back in action on Saturday against No. 24 Michigan at 6 p.m. NU will travel to Ann Arbor on Friday and watch the Wolverines take on No. 11 Minnesota Friday night.