The weekend was supposed to be a clash of conference title contenders. UCLA and Nebraska entered the weekend ranked eleventh and twelfth. The Bruins came in the the Devaney Center with the higher ranking and an undefeated record. However, I believe most would have tabbed the Huskers as the favorite. Playing in front of the sold out crowd of more than eight thousand, Nebraska would have the full-time services of Setter Kelly Hunter for the first time this season. Whatever advantages Nebraska had, they took them all and ran past their ranked opponents.
The first match was a surprise, I think, to everyone. Nebraska took a quick first set 25-15 and never looked back.
→ Nebraska vs. UCLA (2017-09-08)
Annika Albrecht’s attacking had been somewhat suspect, but on this night she was nearly flawless. Scoring twelve kills on twenty-five attempts with only two errors completed a performance that every Husker fan was excited to see. In the back row, Albrecht was no less spectacular. Tying the team lead with fifteen digs, Annika rightfully deserves first mention and hearty congratulations for a job well done.
Mikaela Foecke continued her strong year with a team thirteen kills and adding another thirteen digs. Foecke completed her third double-double of the year and has obviously proven her ability to be a six rotation player for Nebraska.
The “return” of Kelly Hunter can’t be overlooked. The Huskers’ senior setter acquired 44 assists and 10 service points on 16 serves. The only issue seemed to be Hunter’s connection with middle Briana Holman. Managing only five kills on eighteen swings with three errors off the UCLA block, Holman struggled to terminate in the opening match of the weekend.
On UCLA’s part, the night was not without a bright spot or two. Specifically, Madeleine Gates put a strong performance on the scoreboard. Gates totaled seven kills and seven blocks. Three solo blocks highlighted her scoreline and hitting 0.353 with a singular error in the box score was a silver lining in what was otherwise a fairly dark cloud.
Certainly, UCLA retired to examine the game tape and search for a way to reverse their fortunes on the second night of the weekend. It was not to be. In a bit of déjà vu the Huskers not only repeated their dominant win but improved upon it. Again starting off the night with a 25-15 win in set one, the Nebraska women led early, often, and by a wide margin.
→ Nebraska vs. UCLA (2017-09-09)
The second night was all Nebraska. Winning in straight sets by a combined margin of 24 points, the Huskers stated their case as a team to be reckoned with when Big Ten play starts on September 22nd in State College.
There were contributions to victory all over the court in a complete performance in front of 8,000 strong. Mikaela Foecke put another strong performance together with twelve kills on thirty-three swings with four errors, eight service points, eight digs, and an assist. Annika Albrecht followed a note worthy Friday night with a Saturday that was arguably better. Albrecht terminated on eight of seventeen swings with a donut in the error column. Adding 10 service points, two aces, six digs, and an assist completed an all-around performance for the senior. Jazz Sweet continued a strong freshmen campaign with ten kills on seventeen swings with one error totaling 0.529 and added three blocks just for good measure. Kelly Hunter led the Huskers in digs with fourteen and added 31 assists.
Four Bruins tied at seven kills, but three of them also tied with five errors. Kyra Rogers limited herself to two errors and hit 0.357. The only UCLA player to break the three hundred mark. Sarah Sponcil added 30 assists to the 28 she put up on the first night.
The night and the weekend were all Nebraska, and John Cook commented in the post-game press conference that he would not have believed you if you had told him the results of the weekend before the two teams met on the court. I would not have either. Nebraska outscored UCLA 150-107 on the weekend which equates to 58.3% of all points played landing for Big Red.
Numbers To Know
33: UCLA scored 33 service points on 109 serves. That equates to a Nebraska side-out percentage of 69.7%.
36: The Huskers scored 36 service points on Friday alone. Serving 74 times and scoring 36 points limited UCLA to a side-out percentage of 51.4% on the opening night of the weekend.
38: Improving on their Friday performance, Nebraska scored 38 service points on 74 serves on Saturday. Siding out on only 48.6% of attempts spelled the end of any revenge UCLA might have planned.
Next Up for Nebraska
Nebraska will head down to the road to Omaha and UNO’s Baxter Arena for the Omaha Challenge next weekend. The Mavs host Kansas State and Northern Iowa in addition to the Huskers with action beginning on Thursday with the host taking on the Wildcats of Manhattan Kansas. Each team will play three matches in round robin format culminating in Big Red taking on Omaha on Saturday night.
UCLA will be back in action on Wednesday against Loyola Marymount.