The defending national champion Nebraska Cornhuskers, ranked No. 1 in the country, came into Bloomington and left unscathed with a statement victory against the IU volleyball team in just three sets, 25-16, 25-16, 25-11.
The Hoosiers, 16-13 overall, 5-11 in the Big Ten, were hardly able to get anything going against the 25-1, 16-1 visitors and never led at any point in the short, hour-and-25-minute-long match. IU only tied the score five times.
“There’s a reason they’re No. 1, and they played like it,” IU Coach Sherry Dunbar-Kruzan said. “We’re not the team to stop Nebraska, but maybe a team like Minnesota that physically can match up with them and can provide that type of balance on offense and defense. I think Nebraska has a chance to win the national championship this year, and I hope somebody from the Big Ten does it, so we’ll cheer for them once we’re done playing.”
Senior outside hitter Mallory Waggoner made the most of her expanded role on IU’s senior night and provided a quick spark early in the first set with a kill on her first play after subbing in. Waggoner led the Hoosiers in points in the match with seven and tied fellow senior Jazzmine McDonald for the team’s most kills with six.
Waggoner had played in just nine sets this season prior to her three Saturday night. The Sarasota, Florida, native also picked up the only block of her 2016 campaign and three of her five digs against the top-ranked Cornhuskers.
“I wanted to come in and give back to my team, so it was awesome,” Waggoner said. “I didn’t really have nerves. I just had a fire in me. I was excited to go out and show what I am made of and what this senior class is made of. We had the mentality to go in with no regrets and to go after every ball. Coach Dunbar said to swing at everything, and that’s what we did.”
Regardless of the lopsided loss, the outside hitter said it’s not any harder to stick with the defending national champions than it is to stick with any other conference opponent.
“We face top-10 teams every week in the Big Ten, so we don’t really focus on them as much as we focus on us and what we need to execute,” Waggoner said.
Execution was an issue for the Hoosiers during Saturday night’s match. IU hit just .055 for the match, and Nebraska recorded a .365 hitting percentage. The Cornhuskers also out-blocked the Hoosiers, 9-2.
The country’s top-ranked team was led by junior middle blocker Briana Holman, who racked up two solo blocks and five block assists.
“I’m a little bummed we didn’t play better, but that’s the No. 1 team in the nation,” Dunbar-Kruzan said. “They did what the No. 1 team does. They put a lot of pressure on you constantly over three sets and finally wear you down.”
Nebraska was helped in part by some very large scoring runs, including a 19-5 stretch in the final set that allowed it to pull away and silence the largest crowd of the season at University Gym, which had 1,412 people in attendance.
IU’s next match will also be at University Gym. IU will take on rival Purdue on Wednesday in its last home match of the season.