Gators bite too much for Huskers.
Omaha. — The second-ranked Nebraska volleyball team fought off four match points in the third set and led 11-7 in the fifth and final set only to see No. 13 Florida win eight of the final nine points and rally for a 25-22, 25-22, 29-31, 13-25, 15-12 victory in front of 5,978 fans in the final match of the Runza/AVCA Showcase Sunday at Qwest Center Omaha.
After falling behind 2-0, the Huskers fought off four match points and pulled out a 31-29 thriller in set three. Nebraska then cruised to a 12-point win in set four and led for much of the fifth set. Four points away from a come-from-behind win, the Huskers saw Florida win eight of the final nine rallies. Nebraska errors accounted for four of Florida's final six points, including three straight attack errors that turned an 11-9 lead into a one-point deficit.
"I think our kids did a great job of fighting back and getting in the match and getting in position to win the match," Head Coach John Cook said. "The thing that hurts the most is that it was pretty much all on our side of the net. The good thing is we can take care of those things; we can get better from that. The bad news is, we let Florida get out of here with a win."
With the loss, Nebraska fell to 1-1 on the season, while Florida improved to 2-0. Four Huskers matched or set career highs in kills during the win, including senior Lindsey Licht (18), junior Brooke Delano (14), sophomore Allison McNeal (7) and freshman Morgan Broekhuis (10). Sophomore Hannah Werth added 12 kills to give Nebraska four players with double-figure kills and two more with at least seven.
Licht was efficient for the second straight night, totaling 18 kills on only 28 swings while hitting .464. As a team, Nebraska hit .253, totaling 71 kills and 30 errors. Werth added a double-double with 17 digs, while senior Kayla Banwarth posted a match-high 23 digs to lead the Huskers to a 70-50 advantage in digs.
Kelly Murphy did it all for the Gators, finishing with a triple-double. Murphy totaled 20 kills on only 35 swings, hitting .514 while adding 23 assists and 10 digs. Callie Rivers and Kristy Jaeckel each added 12 kills, as Florida hit .270, finishing with eight fewer kills than NU and 10 fewer errors. Florida also added eight aces and 14 blocks.
Florida scored the first five points of set one and never trailed. After Nebraska pulled to within two at 8-6, the Gators responded with three straight points to stretch the lead back to five. Florida continued to lead by at least three and used a 4-0 run to build a 21-13 advantage. Nebraska responded by winning six of the next seven rallies to pull within 22-19 and twice cut the deficit to two before Tangerine Wiggs closed out a 25-22 Florida win with a kill.
In set two, the points came in spurts early. Nebraska scored the first three points of the set before Florida ran off three straight points of its own. The Huskers used another 3-0 run to take a 6-3 lead, but the Gators responded with five straight points to take their first lead of the set. Continuing the trend, Nebraska answered back with a 5-0 run of its own to move in front 11-8. The lead switched hands again when Florida used a decisive 6-1 run to erase a two-point deficit and take a 16-13 lead. The Gators would not trail again, stretching the lead to 21-16. Another late-set rally by the Huskers tied the scored at 21-all. The teams then traded side outs before a Husker hitting error and a kill gave Florida a 25-22 victory.
A back-and-forth third set featured four match points for Florida and three set points for Nebraska. Neither team led by more than three and the Huskers had an advantage until a 4-1 Gator run tied the set at 19-all. A 3-0 Florida spurt gave the Gators a match point at 24-23 before Nebraska earned a set point at 25-24 on a Broekhuis kill and a Florida hitting error. The Gators fought off the set point and earned a second match point before a Werth kill tied the set at 26-all. The teams then traded service errors - including one on Florida's third match point - before the Huskers survived a fourth match point on a ball-handling error by Murphy. Licht followed with a kill before the Gators fought off a second set point. Another Licht kill set up a third set point and this time Nebraska capitalized on a kill by Tara Mueller to take the third set, 31-29.
Nebraska jumped out to a 9-4 lead to begin the fourth set before the Gators pulled within two at 8-6. The Huskers responded with a 10-1 run that pushed the lead to 18-7. Mueller served seven straight points during the run, including a pair of aces. NU cruised from there, leading by at least nine the rest of the way until Mueller and McNeal teammed up on a block to give Nebraska the 25-13 win. The Huskers totaled 15 kills and hit .400 in the set, while Florida committed six errors and hit only .129.
Nebraska began the decisive fifth set with back-to-back kills before a Gator hitting error made it 3-0. Florida came right back with three straight points of its own to tie the set and the Huskers answered with two straight points to take a 5-3 lead. Nebraska led 8-7 at the switch and scored the first three points after the switch to stretch the lead to 11-7. Three straight Husker hitting errors then fueled a 6-0 Gator spurt that gave Florida its first lead at 13-11. The Gators closed the set on an 8-1 run, winning on their 14th block of the match.
Following the first weekend of the season, Nebraska returns to Omaha on Tuesday for a 7 p.m. matchup with in-state rival Creighton at the D.J. Sokol Arena.
Source: University of Nebraska Athletic Dept.