Iowa volleyball shutout by No. 4 Nebraska

Iowa played Nebraska close through the first two sets but had no answer for Nebraska in the third.


Jerod Ringwald

Iowa players huddle up before a women’s volleyball match between Iowa and Rutgers at Xtream Arena on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. The Scarlet Knights defeated the Hawkeyes 3 sets to 2.

Will Fineman, Sports Reporter

Nebraska proved why it is the No. 4 volleyball team in the country Wednesday, as it shutout Iowa at Xtream Arena.

After two tightly contested sets, the Cornhuskers dominated the Hawkeyes in the third to win the first match of the two-game series.

“They are a good team, obviously, and they proved it,” junior outside hitter Courtney Buzzerio said. “But there were a lot of rallies that we could have extended and kept balls going in that way as well.”

Nebraska executed its gameplan perfectly with a .356 hitting percentage and 49 digs.

The Cornhuskers kept the Hawkeyes’ frontcourt guessing with a diverse offense that included quick spikes from their All-Big Ten setter, Nicklin Hames, and forced one-on-one attacks at the net.

It didn’t seem to matter where Iowa’s pin hitters placed the ball. Nebraska was all over the court getting a hand on everything that it didn’t block in the first place. 

“The longer you go into your season, the more you are going to be in a rally situation,” Iowa head coach Vicki Brown said. “Our young hitters are learning that it’s not always going to be your first kill, it’s going to be your second or your third kill that gets the point.”

Buzzerio was a kill and two digs away from a triple-double. Her 11 assists accounted for her lowest total in the last seven matches.

Iowa’s other setter — freshman Bailey Ortega — fared no better. Her 13 assists matched the total she had last Saturday against Maryland, which is the first time in her young career that she has had two straight matches with less than 15 assists. 

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“Each person on the court has their job,” junior middle blocker Hannah Clayton said. “I think it’s just maintaining what you need to do in your position in order for the entire situation to work on our side of the court.”

Iowa showed grit after Nebraska opened the first set with a 6-2 run by replying with a 6-2 run of its own fueled by two straight kills from sophomore outside hitter Edina Schmidt.

The Hawkeyes lost that set, 25-19.

Set two was just as hard-fought, but unfortunately for Iowa, third-team All-American outside hitter Lexi Sun took control for Nebraska. 

Sun had five kills in that set and finished with a double-double composed of 14 kills and 12 digs. Her kill and dig numbers were game highs. 

“Our pin blockers were guessing a lot,” Brown said. “They were releasing to their hitter instead of staying within their responsibility of helping, but also I think they ran the back row attack at the right times just to cause a little more hesitation.”

The third set was one that the Hawkeyes will likely want to forget. Iowa had eight of their 17 errors in that set and Nebraska attacked at a .429 percentage. 

Iowa headed back to the locker room after dropping the third set and the match, 25-11.

“I think we were trying too hard, if that’s a thing, and just getting a little internal when things weren’t going our way,” Buzzerio said.

Luckily for Iowa, it will get another shot at Nebraska on Saturday at 6 p.m. in Lincoln. 

“It’s nice that we have a few more practices in between this match, which is different from all of our other ones this season,” Clayton said. “It’ll be nice to practice against what we saw against Nebraska and just make those adjustments there.”

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