LINCOLN — Kelsey Robinson and Kadie Rolfzen continued to pile up their impressive statistics Saturday, but Nebraska needed contributions from a bludgeoning block and a blanketing floor defense to pick up its eighth consecutive win.
No. 9 Nebraska finished its fourth straight undefeated week in Big Ten Conference play with a 25-20, 20-25, 25-21, 25-19 win over No. 19 Michigan in front of a Devaney Center crowd of 8,192 fans.
The Huskers tied a season high with 18 blocks, including a career-high 11 stuffs from sophomore middle blocker Meghan Haggerty. NU also had 18 blocks against the Wolverines when the teams met in Ann Arbor last month.
“We prepared all week, and we knew what they wanted to do,” Haggerty said, “so we started getting the hang of it, and it showed by getting some blocks.”
Robinson had some uncharacteristic hitting errors in the early going, but heated up with 13 of her match-high 21 kills in the third and fourth sets after Michigan took the second set to tie the match. The Bartlett, Ill., native added 13 digs for her second double-double of the weekend.
Rolfzen nearly matched the senior with 20 kills and 10 digs while hitting .444. It's the fourth straight match the freshman has hit at least .341.
Nebraska (21-4, 14-2 Big Ten) got off to a slow start in the opener as Michigan (17-10, 7-9) jumped to a 17-12 lead. The Huskers were slow to figure out Wolverine outside hitter Molly Toon, who had six kills in the opening set.
Nebraska coach John Cook said his team came out flat after Friday's emotional win over No. 16 Michigan State.
“We weren't talking. We barely had a pulse, it felt like,” Cook said. “But with a young team, when we come out and we're so emotionally high like we were last night, for them to come back, they've got to learn how to do that.
“They've got to learn just because you played great one night, the next team coming in, they don't care.”
Facing that five-point deficit, the Huskers recorded three straight blocks in a 5-0 run to tie the set 17-17. Up 21-20, Nebraska scored the final four points of the set on kills by Robinson, Kadie and Amber Rolfzen, and a block by Amber Rolfzen and Cecilia Hall.
It was Michigan forging the comeback from an early deficit in the second set. The Wolverines trailed 9-5 but won 11 of the next 14 rallies to lead 16-12. Nebraska cut the lead down to two points twice, but the Wolverines pulled out the set led by six more kills from Toon.
Toon led the Wolverines with 17 kills, while freshman Abby Cole added 13.
Robinson finally got warmed up in the third set with seven kills. A kill and block by Robinson put Nebraska up 16-13 and the Huskers led the rest of the way.
After a pair of kills from Toon closed NU's lead to 22-20, Rolfzen and Robinson put down back-to-back kills to give Nebraska four set points. Robinson blasted a kill over a double block two rallies later.
Tied 1-1 with a Michigan team that returned most of its players from last year's Final Four run, Cook said the third set was make or break for the Huskers' winning streak. He made a deliberate effort to thank the capacity crowd at the Devaney Center for providing a lift to help shake the Huskers' cobwebs.
“For us to be able to have a football game and play after and still get 8,000 people in here, literally an hour after the football game is just a big credit to the Husker Nation. They rallied us tonight and really gave us a big pick-up when we needed it after Game 2.”
Robinson and Kadie Rolfzen each had six kills in the finale, where the Huskers hit .361 and finished at .286 for the match.
Nebraska's floor defense provided an athletic counter to the block. Four NU players reached double-digit digs, led by 13 from freshman libero Justine Wong-Orantes.
Michigan (17-10, 7-9) ................................................ 20 25 21 19
At Nebraska (21-4, 14-2) .......................................... 25 20 25 25
UM (kills-aces-blocks): Toon 17-0-3, Cole 13-0-2, Cross 9-0-3, Davis 7-0-1, Erwin 4-0-1, Goode 3-0-6, Dannemiller 3-0-2, Lee 0-1-0
NU: Robinson 21-2-6, K. Rolfzen 20-0-2, Hall 6-0-5, A. Rolfzen 6-0-6, Haggerty 5-0-11, Pollmiller 2-1-3, Lyles 0-1-0
Set assists: UM 54 (Dannemiller 45), NU 59 (Pollmiller 52). A: 8,192.
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Video: Highlights from the Nebraska-Michigan match: