Lincoln, NE- In front of a sold out crowd, and a national TV audience, the No. 3 Nebraska Cornhuskers volleyball team would overcome a first set loss to take the match 3-1 against the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Sunday afternoon.
Led by talented freshman Daly Santana, the Gophers would take the first set 25-18. Santana, a member of the Puerto Rico women’s national volleyball team, tallied three kills and a service ace. While her numbers were not overly impressive, she rocked the Nebraska defense keeping them on their toes the entire set causing much confusion and sloppy play for the Huskers. Katherine Harms of Minnesota had five kills and Tori Dixon was a perfect 4-for-4 on kill attempts.
The Gophers gave the Huskers a different look then they were used too, and were forced to adjust in the first break.
“They had three” (jump servers). Said Husker sophomore Lara Dykstra. “Our block was trying to get set, but they were playing really well and had some good attackers.”
In the second set it was Nebraska that would take the momentum. Gina Mancuso tallied five blocks, giving the Huskers a big lead early on. Ashley Wittman of Minnesota would lead a comeback, as she added a team high six kills for the Golden Gophers. Despite a .179 hitting percentage, the Huskers would take the second set 27-25.
“We just got off to a slow start, we were playing uptight, so we just kin of relaxed in the second set.” said senior Lauren Cook.
The third set belonged to Cook. The setter notched four kills, catching the Gopher defense off balance each time. Nebraska held a 21-16 lead late in the set, but the three-headed monster of Ashley Wittman, Katherine Harms and Tori Dixon mounted a comeback, tying the set up at 21. It would go down to the wire but the Huskers would prevail taking the set 25-23.
When asked about her eight kills, the senior setter said, “They weren’t really respecting me so I said why not and kept dumping it.”
The fourth set was all Nebraska as they took down the Gophers, 25-16. Mancuso and Hannah Werth combined for eight kills. Their counterparts Wittman and Harms were both in the negatives when it came to hitting percentage, which allowed the Huskers to break away at the end. A kill by Morgan Broekhuis would give the Huskers the set and the match, 3-1.
“It was everything I expected, and Minnesota is a really good team, they bring it, I like the way they play” said head coach John Cook. “I was surprised we started off so slowly…but I was pleased how are team hung in there and was able to get back the momentum.”
The Huskers improve their record to 15-2 (7-1) as the Minnesota Golden Gophers drop to 15-4 (6-2). Nebraska will play again October 17th against the Iowa Hawkeyes in Iowa City.