LINCOLN — After losing a marathon fourth set, the Nebraska volleyball team faced gut-check time Saturday night.
The 10th-ranked Huskers responded with a dominating performance in the fifth set to outlast No. 23 Wisconsin 25-23, 26-24, 22-25, 30-32, 15-6. The win boosted Nebraska to 11-2 overall and 4-0 in the Big Ten while the Badgers fell to 14-2 and 3-1.
“Welcome to the Big Ten,” NU coach John Cook said. “This is the way it’s going to be every match.”
Cook said the Huskers, who were coming off a sweep of eighth-ranked Minnesota on Friday night, might have been dwelling on that victory a little too much.
“They were getting a lot of pats on the back after that one,” he said. “But I think we learned a lesson tonight.”
Cook also might have learned something about his young team and the way it can dig deep when necessary. The Huskers won the first two sets and then had to regroup after losing the next two — especially the 32-30 setback in the fourth.
“We really stepped it up in that fifth set,” senior Kelsey Robinson said. “I’m proud of the way we played, because we battled for every point.”
Robinson did her part in the match, pounding 29 kills. She had three kills and an ace in the final set as Nebraska pulled away from the pesky Badgers.
“Going into that last set, we talked about going point by point,” Robinson said. “I think that helps us focus when we take it one at a time.”
The Huskers had to battle through the first two sets but managed to narrowly win both. They clinched the first on a kill by sophomore Meghan Haggerty and the second on another Haggerty kill.
It appeared Nebraska might be poised for its second consecutive sweep of a ranked foe when it took a 19-16 lead in the third set on a Robinson kill. But a timeout refocused Wisconsin, and the Badgers went on a 9-3 run the rest of the way to take the set 25-22.
The fourth set, the longest for the Huskers this season, was a cliffhanger that had the 8,277 fans at the Devaney Center on the edge of their seats. The set was tied at every point from 13 on, and the Badgers finally prevailed after Robinson hit a shot into the net and freshman Haleigh Nelson blocked an NU shot for the 32nd point.
From that point, it was all Nebraska. The Huskers played flawlessly in the final set and maintained their momentum despite a pair of timeouts by Wisconsin coach Kelly Sheffield.
After leading 12-6, NU got a pair of big plays from freshman Kadie Rolfzen to help it clinch the match. Her block took the Huskers to 13, an errant shot by Wisconsin’s Courtney Thomas made it 14 and a Rolfzen kill ended it.
“I felt Kadie had gotten a little tentative earlier in the match,” Cook said. “But in Game 5, we had to go with the kids who have proven it.”
Haggerty chipped in 13 kills for Nebraska while three players — Kadie Rolfzen, her sister Amber and Cecilia Hall — each had eight.
Mary Pollmiller dished out 54 assists and Robinson had 22 digs to go with her 29 kills.
Thomas had 18 kills to pace the Badgers while Deme Morales had 13 and Ellen Chapman 10. Freshman setter Lauren Carlini, the 2012 Gatorade National Player of the Year from Aurora, Ill., had seven kills and 49 assists.
The Huskers return to action next Friday night at Michigan.