Blocks fuel Huskers to 3-1 win over New Mexico

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LINCOLN, Neb. — The No. 4 Nebraska volleyball team used a season-high 16.5 blocks to recover from a slow start and beat New Mexico, 3-1 (23-25, 25-12, 25-20, 25-11), in front of a crowd of 8,043 at the Bob Devaney Sports Center on Friday night at the Husker Invite.

The Huskers (8-1) picked up their second win of the day after sweeping Central Michigan earlier Friday. Freshman Callie Schwarzenbach had a career-high 13 blocks, the third-highest total by a Husker in the rally scoring era (2001-present), and the most by an individual in an NCAA Division I four-set match this season. The Huskers' 16.5 blocks as a team were their most since 2016.

Mikaela Foecke paced the attack with 13 kills on .393 hitting, and she added a career-high six blocks. Lexi Sun made her Husker debut and had 13 kills on .346 hitting with five digs. Sun connected for six kills on seven swings (.857) in the fourth and final set. Lauren Stivrins chipped in seven kills and three blocks, while Nicklin Hames produced 34 assists, six digs and three kills. Kenzie Maloney had a match-best 13 digs.

Nebraska had a .282 to .040 edge in hitting percentage. NU also out-aced the Lobos, 6-2. The win was the 700th career victory for Nebraska head coach John Cook. He became the 10th active Division I head coach with at least 700 career wins and the 27th Division I coach all-time to reach 700.

New Mexico (5-6) got 16 kills from Tai Bierria.

Set 1: The Huskers fell into a 14-10 hole early on, but a couple of Lobo attacking errors and an ace serve by Sun pulled the Huskers within 14-13. Schwarzenbach and Hames stuffed an attack, and Schwarzenbach and Foecke then combined to do the same on the left side to tie the set for the first time since the score was 5-5. The Huskers took their first lead since 1-0 when a two-hit violation made it 17-16. Hames then served an ace, and Foecke hammered another kill for a 19-16 lead. But the Lobos answered with three in a row to even the set again at 19-19. After a timeout, Foecke earned sideout and then served an ace to make it 21-19. But the Lobos came back with a 3-0 run, including blocks on back-to-back rallies, to go up 23-22. New Mexico gained set point with a Twitty kill that made it 24-23, and Twitty finished it off at 25-23.

Set 2: Stivrins and Sun hammered back-to-back kills to help the Huskers seize a 9-5 lead. A pair of kills on the slide by Stivrins made it 12-6 Huskers. Anezka Szabo subbed in with Brooke Smith, and Szabo's presence was felt immediately at the net as she combined on two blocks as the Huskers ran off a 5-0 run that put them ahead 17-7. Schwarzenbach combined on three blocks in that run. Schwarzenbach's ninth block of the night made it 22-9 Big Red. The Huskers finished off the 25-12 win with a Stivrins and Sun block to even the match.

Set 3: Stivrins and Foecke combined for three straight kills, the last of which Stivrins dug from the floor to the back corner for a 9-8 Husker lead. The Huskers took a 15-12 lead into the media timeout. Although New Mexico pulled within one on two occasions, the Huskers answered each time. Hames dumped a kill to win a scramble and give the Huskers a 23-20 lead, and New Mexico hit wide for set point for the Big Red, which they won on the next rally on a kill by Sun.

Set 4: Nebraska rolled to an 8-2 start with a pair of kills by Sun and an ace by Hayley Densberger. The Huskers continued to pull away, extending the lead to 12 at 20-8 after three kills by Sun in a 4-0 run. Stivrins, Sun and Foecke clinched the 25-11 win with kills down the stretch.

Up Next: The Huskers finish the tournament against Missouri State at 7 p.m. on Saturday. The Bears went 2-0 on Friday as well with sweeps over New Mexico and Central Michigan.