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First serve, then hitting kicks into gear for NU
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No. 10 NU def. Rutgers 25-19, 25-9, 25-12

First serve, then hitting kicks into gear for NU

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PISCATAWAY, N.J. — In the time its offense took to get warmed up, Nebraska kept Rutgers at bay with serving.

The 10th-ranked Huskers tied a season-high with 10 aces, led by three from junior Kenzie Knuckles, to defeat Rutgers 25-19, 25-9, 25-12 Sunday afternoon .

NU (12-3, 6-0 Big Ten) struggled to attack in the first set with nine errors, but countered with five aces, including back-to-back points from Knuckles to clinch the set. Sunday's serving performance followed the eight aces in a four-set win against No. 13 Penn State on Friday.

“As the match went on, we got better and I just thought our serving just dictated the whole match,” coach John Cook said. “We're feeling good about our serving. This weekend, on the road, we really attacked with our serve which really helps our blocking defense.”

Against Rutgers, six Huskers recorded an ace as sophomore Anni Evans and freshman Lexi Rodriguez each added two. Meanwhile, NU was aced just one while Rutgers (8-9, 0-6) had seven service errors.

The Huskers’ slow start allowed the Scarlet Knights to hang around early and trim NU's lead to 17-16 in the first set. But the Huskers closed with an 8-3 run that included three aces.

NU controlled the second set with a 15-2 run after splitting the first four points. The Huskers added four more aces and blocks, while Rutgers recorded four kills in hitting minus-.114 with eight errors.

The Huskers cruised in the third as their offense got on track. Rutgers trailed 12-8 before NU won eight of the next nine rallies to finish the sweep.

The Huskers also improved their attack each set. After hitting .114 in the first, they closed the third with a .467 efficiency. NU hit .255 for the match.

Junior outside hitter Madi Kubik led NU with 11 kills while freshman opposite Lindsay Krause added nine at a .421 clip. Nicklin Hames had 30 assists and two kills.

Junior middle blocker Kayla Caffey did not dress for the match, she was out with a non-COVID-19 illness. Cook said she wasn’t feeling well but hopes she returns for NU’s next match, when it hosts Indiana on Wednesday.

Rutgers finished with 19 kills and hit .042 for the match. Beka Kojadinovic entered averaging almost three kills per set, but recorded four kills and ended up with a negative hitting percentage. No Scarlet Knight tallied more than five kills.

Rodriguez anchored the defense with a match-high 17 digs. Seniors Nicklin Hames, Lauren Stivrins and Callie Schwarzenbach each had three blocks.

Cook said Rutgers’ poor offensive stats were a result of NU’s tough serving, which kept the Scarlet Knights off-kilter all match.

“Our serving really, really stressed them,” he said. “They were having a hard time with our serves and so credit to our players for really attacking with their serve.”

<agate>Nebraska (12-3, 6-0);25;25;25

At Rutgers (8-9, 0-6);19; 9;12

NU (kills-aces-blocks): Hames 2-1-3, Knuckles 1-3-0, Evans 0-2-0, Akana 0-1-0, Rodriguez 0-2-0, Kubik 11-1-2, Sun 2-0-1, Lauenstein 2-0-1, Batenhorst 4-0-0, Krause 9-0-0, Schwarzenbach 5-0-3, Stivrins 6-0-3. Totals 42-10-13.

R: Kojadinovic 4-0-1, McNamara 0-0-1, Maksimova 2-1-1, Balyko 2-0-1, Cieslik 5-0-0, Vernon 5-0-2, Grkovic 1-0-0. Totals 19-1-6.

Set assists: NU 37 (Hames 30, Knuckles 1, Rodriguez 4, Kubik 2), R 17 (Chitty 3, Balyko 13, Cieslik 1). Digs: NU 54 (Hames 8, Knuckles 4, Evans 2, Akana 4, Rodriguez 17, Kubik 9, Sun 1, Lauenstein 1, Batenhorst 1, Krause 4, Schwarzenbach 1, Stivrins 2), R 38 (Kojadinovic 13, Chitty 10, Graver 3, Maksimova 4, Balyko 8).</agate>

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