The No. 8 Nebraska volleyball team rallied from a first-set defeat to take the next three sets and beat No. 3 Penn State, 3-1, Friday night at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.
The Devaney Center crowd of 8,585 – a record under the new seating configuration – did everything it could to spur the Huskers to victory, and Nebraska used the energy to rebound from a 25-12 loss in set one with three straight victories: 25-22, 25-20, 25-23.
The Huskers (9-3, 3-0 Big Ten) posted their first win against a top-five opponent since a 3-0 sweep of No. 5 Washington in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Nebraska had been 0-4 against top-five teams since then. Penn State (14-2, 2-1 Big Ten), the defending national champion, suffered its first loss in four sets since the 2012 NCAA Semifinals.
Kadie Rolfzen led three Huskers with double-digit kills with 13. Alicia Ostrander had 11 kills, and Amber Rolfzen had 10 kills and 10 digs. Meghan Haggerty produced nine kills with just one error for a season-high .421 hitting percentage while adding seven blocks. Freshman Annika Albrecht led NU’s strong defensive effort with a career-high 20 digs, as NU outdug Penn State 64-56. Mary Pollmiller had 38 assists, eight digs, four blocks and four kills on five attacks.
Freshman Ali Frantti had 19 kills and nine digs for the Nittany Lions. Megan Courtney added 11 kills.
The Huskers hit .196 for the match, while Penn State was held to a season-low .191 clip.
Penn State came out of the gate on fire and bolted to a 7-1 lead, hitting .750 in the process. The Nittany Lions built the lead to 15-5 before Nebraska’s second timeout of the set and finished out the 25-12 win. PSU hit .360 in the opening frame, while the Huskers hit -.037, their low hitting mark of the season. NU had seven attacking errors in game one.
The Huskers took their first lead of the match at 4-3 in set two on a kill by Amber Rolfzen after the Huskers had fallen behind 2-0 quickly to start the set. That was part of a 5-0 Husker run, as the Huskers made it 5-3 on a Wong-Orantes service ace, 6-3 on a solo block by Haggerty and 7-3 on a PSU attacking error. But Penn State crept back into it and tied the set at 17-17 after three straight points, forcing a Husker timeout. Out of the timeout, Ostrander smashed a kill and then added a block with Melanie Keil to take a 19-17 lead. An attack error on Penn State then gave NU a 20-17 lead, but the Nittany Lions got within 22-21 on a kill by Courtney. Cecilia Hall produced a huge kill to the middle of the floor for a 24-22 lead, and a block from Haggerty and Amber Rolfzen ended the set at 25-22. NU hit .167 in the set, but more importantly held Penn State to a .100 clip.
NU rode its momentum early in the third set, taking a 5-1 lead with three kills by Amber Rolfzen pacing the Big Red. Penn State rallied to tie it 9-9 on a Frantti kill, but Nebraska answered with three straight points, finished by a Kadie Rolfzen swing to make it 12-9. The Huskers never let their foot off the gas, pulling away from a 20-18 lead with three straight points on a kill by Amber Rolfzen and two by Kadie Rolfzen. Haggerty and Pollmiller’s combined block finished off the 25-20 win. NU hit .366 in set three with 21 kills and just six errors on 41 attacks. Penn State had just two errors on 45 attacks, but the Nittany Lions also had just 12 kills as Nebraska picked up its defense, led by Albrecht’s 11 digs in the set. Her career high for a match entering the night was 12, and she nearly beat that in the third set alone. NU outdug Penn State 24-13 in the pivotal third game.
Penn State claimed the early edge in set four, going up 9-6 on a Nia Grant kill. However, Nebraska won a long rally on a dump by Pollmiller to kickstart a three-point run that tied the set at 9-9, capped by an Amber Rolfzen kill. The Huskers took a 12-10 lead on a PSU hitting error, but the Nittany Lions evened it up at 13-13. Ostrander came up with a huge kill to give the Huskers a 20-19 lead and end Micha Hancock’s serving run. She entered the match as the national leader in service aces but had just one on the evening. Kadie Rolfzen made it a 21-19 lead with a kill, forcing PSU’s last timeout of the set. After drawing within 21-20, the Nittany Lions committed three service errors, including one to close out the match as the Devaney crowd amped up the noise.
The Huskers are back at the Bob Devaney Sports Center on Saturday to host Ohio State at 5 p.m. on NET. Ohio State swept Iowa on Friday night in Iowa City.