Lauren Stivrins’ career high helps No. 9 Nebraska volleyball earn road win against Ohio State
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Lauren Stivrins might not be able to beat teams with one hand tied behind her back. But when her setter is short-handed? It was still going Nebraska’s way Wednesday.
Stivrins put away a career-high 16 kills on .789 hitting to help No. 9 Nebraska snap a three-match losing streak with a 25-15, 23-25, 25-12, 25-9 win at Ohio State.
Three teammates joined Stivrins with double-digit kills as Nebraska (16-5, 7-4 Big Ten) put up its best offensive match of the Big Ten schedule, hitting .407. Mikaela Foecke had nine of her 12 kills over the final two sets while Jazz Sweet added 11 kills and Lexi Sun 10.
Foecke also had 11 digs for her fourth straight double-double and tied her season high with six blocks. Sun had 10 digs for her fifth double-double of the season.
Stivrins said Nebraska’s scouting report featured a heavy dose of attacking from the middle blockers because Ohio State’s blocking scheme commits two blockers to opponents’ left-side hitters. While NU’s left sides, Foecke and Sun, took a while to get going, Stivrins and opposite hitter Sweet reaped the benefits in the first part of the match.
“We’ve been working a lot on being able to set the middle from off the court,” Stivrins said via phone after the match. “Coach (John Cook) has been stressing we should have a middle attacker at all times. Even if Nicklin’s (Hames) on the run, we still want to have three attackers.”
Stivrins had seven kills on nine swings in Game 1, though she ended the set with a bit of luck. An off-target pass drifted between Stivrins and Hames. After Stivrins realized her setter wasn’t going to get to the ball, the sophomore stretched out her 6-foot-4 frame, sprawled to the floor and managed to flick the ball over the net, where it caught the Buckeyes by surprise.
“Honestly, I was expecting Nicklin to take that,” Stivrins said. “I just threw an arm out and it just kind of worked out.”
Stivrins added four more kills in the second set, but the Buckeyes had five aces through the first two sets and won two video review challenges in Game 2. Lauren Witte’s kill broke the last of nine ties in the set to give OSU a 24-23 lead. Stivrins’ lone hitting error of the match sealed the set on the next rally.
“We just gave them like 10 points (on errors),” Cook said in his postmatch radio interview. “When you’re giving away points, you’re going to lose games.”
But as the Huskers’ passing finally settled down after intermission, Nebraska handled business quickly. NU hit .533 with two hitting errors over the final two sets, and the 10 errors in the match were the team’s fewest in conference play this year. Foecke had six kills in the third set, and the Huskers hit .600 without an error to run away with the clincher.
Stivrins’ previous career high in kills also was set in St. John Arena, where she had 12 kills against Ohio State last season. She matched that in Saturday’s loss to Minnesota and surpassed it by Game 3 Wednesday with one of several kills she scored when a tight pass forced Hames to set the ball with one hand.
The Huskers were in front at 19-11 when Sun’s pass pulled Hames tight to the net. The freshman floated a one-handed set to Stivrins, who had mistimed her jump, but hung in the air long enough to blast the ball to the floor.
“I just had faith that Nicklin is going to get it to me,” Stivrins said. “She’s been doing a great job setting me.”
The Husker defense bottled up Ohio State’s makeshift lineup that was missing two starters with injuries. The Buckeyes hit .083 with Nebraska winning the dig battle 59-43.
Vanja Bukilic, a 6-foot-6 freshman outside hitter, led the Buckeyes with 11 kills. Bia Franklin had 10.
Libero Kenzie Maloney had a match-high 14 digs and served four of the Huskers’ seven aces. Freshman defensive specialist Megan Miller made a case to continue her increased playing time with a pair of aces. Cook said after the match that he may be moving closer to settling on the lineup NU used Wednesday with Miller serving in place of Sweet and Sun and Foecke flipping spots in the rotation.
“There’s pluses and minuses to everything. We work through it,” Cook said. “We think we like this lineup better. We’re trying to get Megan more involved, so we’re trying to figure out how to do that.”
Wednesday’s match was a brief respite from Nebraska’s run against top-10 teams. After the Huskers host No. 6 Illinois on Saturday, followed by a rematch with No. 4 Penn State on Nov. 2, NU will have played six of eight matches against top-10 foes.
Stivrins maintained that didn’t put extra pressure on the Huskers against a mid-tier Big Ten team Wednesday, just the pressure to play up to Nebraska’s potential.
“We have spurts where we play great and everything is going as it should,” she said. “Then, there are times where we can’t get it done. We’re just working on being more consistent.”
Nebraska (16-5, 7-4)............25 23 25 25
At Ohio State (12-11, 3-8)......15 25 12 9
NU (kills-aces-blocks): Stivrins 16-0-4, Foecke 12-0-6, Sweet 11-0-2, Sun 10-1-2, Schwarzenbach 6-0-5, Hames 1-0-0, Miller 0-2-0, Maloney 0-4-0. Totals: 56-7-19.
OSU: Bukilic 11-2-2, Franklin 10-1-1, Witte 7-0-1, Moeller 4-3-1, Mauer 3-0-3, Powell 2-0-2. Totals: 37-6-10.
Set assists: NU 51 (Hames 44, Maloney 5, Foecke 1, Densberger 1), OSU 35 (Mauer 29, Appold 3, Moeller 2, Bukilic 1). Attendance: 1,185.