LINCOLN, Neb. – The eighth-ranked Nebraska volleyball team beat its third top-10 opponent in the last nine days after rallying from down 0-2 to defeat No. 7 Wisconsin in five sets, 22-25, 17-25, 25-20, 25-23, 15-8, in front of a season-high crowd of 8,453 at the Bob Devaney Sports Center on Saturday night.
The Huskers improved to 11-3 overall and 4-0 in the Big Ten. The thrilling comeback marks the first time ever during the regular season that Nebraska has beaten three top-10 opponents in a span of nine days.
Annika Albrecht paced the Huskers with 18 kills and 12 digs, while Mikaela Foecke put down 15 kills and nine digs. Briana Holman recorded 13 kills and four blocks, and Lauren Stivrins had eight kills and a team-high five blocks.
Kelly Hunter had a double-double with 47 assists and 11 digs, while Sydney Townsend had a career-high 17 digs and served two aces and some key runs for the Huskers. Libero Kenzie Maloney added 13 digs as NU outdug Wisconsin 71-68.
Both teams reached double digits in blocks, as Wisconsin held an 11-10 edge. NU hit just .193 in the match but held Wisconsin to .194. The Husker victory was the first of their 11 this season that took longer than three sets.
Kelli Bates had 20 kills and 11 digs for Wisconsin, and 6-8 middle blocker Dana Rettke had 11 kills and six blocks. Lauryn Gillis added 13 kills.
Set 1: Nebraska fell behind 8-5 after a 4-0 run by the Badgers. Stivrins had a solo block and two kills for the Huskers, but Wisconsin increased the lead to 13-8 after Rettke’s second block of the set. Rettke added a pair of kills and served a 4-0 run as Wisconsin went up 17-10. Holman gained sideout for the Huskers with a kill, but Wisconsin answered right back with a Tionna Williams kill. Stivrins notched a kill, and Albrecht swung the Huskers back into the set with back-to-back kills to pull NU within 19-15 and force a UW timeout. After the timeout, Sydney Townsend saved a ball from hitting the floor and Albrecht tacked on two more kills to trim the deficit to 19-17 after a 5-0 run. The Badgers clung to their advantage at 22-19 before Holman terminated on back-to-back plays to cut it to 22-21. Rettke kept the Badgers in front with a kill to make it 23-21, but Foecke answered with a kill to bring the Huskers back within one point. Williams put UW up 24-22 on the next rally, and the Badgers won 25-22 on their fourth block of the set.
Set 2: Bates had four kills for Wisconsin as the Badgers again claimed the upper hand with an 8-4 lead. A solo block by Albrecht and a combo block by Stivrins and Hunter contributed to a 3-0 Big Red run to cut it to 8-7. A pair of Wisconsin hitting errors tied the set at 10-10, but the Badgers continued to benefit from their tough block as they went ahead 15-12 at the media timeout via their sixth block of the match. A pair of ace serves by Madison Duello made it 18-12 Badgers after the 5-0 run. Wisconsin went up 21-13 after a 10-2 run. The Huskers got as close as six points at 21-15, but Wisconsin finished the set on top, 25-17, to take a 2-0 lead in the match.
Set 3: Townsend served a pair of aces to set the tone in set three, and the Huskers built an 8-2 lead after three straight blocks by Holman, two of which were solo and one that was with Foecke. Holman continued her strong play with her ninth kill of the match to make it 9-4. The Huskers led 12-6 before Wisconsin ran off three consecutive points, but Albrecht’s 11th kill earned the Huskers sideout before Foecke killed out of the back row for a 14-9 lead. Two more kills by Foecke and one by Stivrins forced a Wisconsin timeout at 17-11. Foecke scored five of seven points for NU on kills to boost the Big Red to a 20-12 lead. Later, Holman notched a kill, Stivrins and Sweet teamed up for a block, and Albrecht got set point for the Huskers at 24-15. After Wisconsin fought off five set points, the Huskers escaped with the 25-20 win on a block by Sweet and Stivrins, the fourth of the night for Stivrins.
Set 4: Wisconsin claimed an early 7-2 lead with a 5-0 run. But Nebraska stormed back with an 8-0 run on Foecke’s serve to take a 10-7 lead. Foecke had a kill and an ace to spark the run, and Sweet tallied a pair of kills. The series of runs continued as Wisconsin reeled off the next five points to go back ahead 12-10. Bates had a pair of kills for the Badgers. A kill by Hunter evened the set at 13-13, and the teams sided out the next nine rallies before a Husker hitting error made it 19-17 Badgers. The Huskers drew within one three times before Foecke tied the set at 21-21 with her 12th kill. The Huskers went ahead 22-21 after a critical challenge call overturned a Wisconsin kill, as the ball was ruled out after a review. The teams traded points to a 23-23 tie before a kill by Foecke earned Nebraska set point. Hunter stepped back to serve, and Foecke finished off the thrilling set at 25-23 with her 14th kill of the night.
Set 5: Foecke and Albrecht terminated back-to-back kills for a 7-5 Husker lead, forcing a Wisconsin timeout. A kill by Gillis made it 7-6 before Sweet got the Huskers to the changeover with an 8-6 lead and put Maloney at the service line. Albrecht and Stivrins then teamed up for a block to make it 9-6 Huskers, and Albrecht smashed two straight overpasses for an 11-6 lead and a 5-0 run. After the Badgers got a sideout, they committed a service error and then hit wide for a 13-7 Husker lead. Nebraska finished its comeback with one more kill by Albrecht and a Wisconsin service error.
Up Next: The Huskers play their first mid-week match of the season next week when they host No. 16 Michigan State at 7 p.m. at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.