(Courtesy Nebraska Athletics)
OMAHA, Neb. – Behind a strong serving performance, the No. 5 seed Nebraska volleyball team swept 12th-seeded Baylor 3-0 Sunday afternoon to advance to an NCAA Regional Final for the ninth straight year.
The Huskers came from behind to win set one, 25-21. Nebraska never trailed in a 25-17 victory in set two, and the third set was tied at 14 before NU pulled away for a 25-19 win. Nebraska had eight aces in the win, while its strong serving consistently forced Baylor out of system, as the Bears hit just .141 in the match. NU also out-blocked Baylor 8-4 and had six more digs than the Bears.
With the win, Nebraska (16-2) advanced to Monday’s regional final, where the Huskers will face either No. 4 seed Texas or 13th-seeded Penn State, who play later Sunday. The Huskers’ streak of nine consecutive NCAA Regional Finals is the longest in the country, and Nebraska’s 30 appearances in an NCAA Regional final are the most in NCAA history.
With All-American Lauren Stivrins sidelined, fellow All-American Lexi Sun led the Huskers. Sun served up a career-high five aces, had five digs and led Nebraska with 12 kills on .345 hitting. Callie Schwarzenbach, who filled in for Stivrins, had three kills on seven swings and totaled a match-high five blocks. Madi Kubik added eight kills for Nebraska, while Kayla Caffey and Jazz Sweet had seven kills apiece.
In addition to guiding a balanced offense that had four players with at least seven kills in the three-set match, Nicklin Hames had 31 assists, 11 digs, four kills, three blocks and one service ace. Kenzie Knuckles had a match-high 13 digs and serving specialist Hayley Densberger had a pair of aces.
Baylor was led by 2019 National Player of the Year Yossiana Pressley, who had a match-high 15 kills. The Bears ended their season with a 20-7 record.
Set 1: Baylor used a 5-0 run to take a 6-3 lead, and the Bears led 13-9 before Nebraska roared back with four straight points, keyed by kills from Sweet, Caffey and Sun and a block by Caffey and Kubik. Schwarzenbach and Sun posted kills, and the duo combined for a block for an 18-16 Husker lead. Hayley Densberger served an ace to make it 20-17, and the Huskers won 25-21 on a kill by Kubik. Nebraska had a decisive edge at the service line in the first set. NU had four aces and just one error, while Baylor had two aces and five errors. Sun had three aces and four kills alone in the opening set.
Set 2: The Huskers were dominant from start to finish in set two. Sun, Caffey and Sweet pounded kills before an ace by Hames put NU up 5-1 to start. After Baylor cut the lead in half, Sun served yet another ace and Caffey posted a solo block to make it 9-3 Huskers. The lead increased to nine at 17-8 after Densberger recorded another ace, and Caffey terminated a kill. Sweet tacked on two more kills as the Huskers remained on top, 21-13. Schwarzenbach and Hames teamed up for a block for set point at 24-15, and NU won the set, 25-17, holding Baylor to .038.
Set 3: The teams went back and forth early on, but Baylor went up 13-9 after a 4-1 spurt. Sun terminated a kill and an ace around back-to-back Baylor hitting errors, and a kill by Sweet gave the Huskers a 14-13 lead. After Baylor promptly tied the set, Nebraska won four of the next six rallies. The Bears came back and trimmed the Husker lead to 20-18, but NU won five of the final six rallies, closing out the match on a Baylor attack error. Nebraska held Baylor to .098 hitting in the third set.