10th-seeded Nebraska beat the Campbell Fighting Camels in straight sets Friday night in the opening round of the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Tournament. The Huskers took the three sets 25-14, 25-14, 25-17 in front of the Huskers home crowd at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.
The Huskers improved to 22-7 with their 14th three-set win of the season. They moved to 34-1 all-time in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Nebraska attacked well throughout the night with a .272 hitting percentage. Campbell had a hitting percentage of -.022, their lowest mark of the season and the lowest for a Nebraska opponent this season.
“I thought we came out firing the ball around a little bit, and we passed great tonight,” Nebraska head coach John Cook said. “We held them to a negative. Anytime you hold someone to a negative hitting percentage, your defense has done a good job.”
Senior middle blockers Lauren Stivrins and Kayla Caffey led the team in kills, with 9 and 7 respectively. Junior outside hitter Madi Kubik also contributed 7 kills as well as 8 digs.
Freshman libero Lexi Rodriguez led the team in digs with 10. Her third dig of the night was a record-breaker for the Huskers, as she now holds the Husker volleyball freshman single season record with 452 digs.
Stivrins said discipline was key to the success in the middle.
“I think that sometimes we let our nerves get the best of us. Or at least I do,” Stivrins said. “Just staying calm in the middle and not letting a swing here or there rattle us or change our game plan. Just our discipline at the net was great tonight.”
Campbell head coach Greg Goral said Nebraska’s ability to stay in system was the difference in the match.
“Nebraska is obviously the best passing and best defensive team in the conference,” Goral said. “So it was just hard to get them out of system and score points off our serve. We’re a good serving team, but it was just really hard to stop Nebraska’s offense when they’re in system a majority of the time, and that was the difference.”
Nebraska had a .300 and .345 hitting percentage in the first two sets, while Campbell had -0.069 and -0.034 hitting percentages. The third set was more competitive, with Nebraska having a .205 hitting percentage compared to 0.032 hitting percentage for Campbell. At match point, Campbell strung together a run of four straight points, a mark of resiliency that Coral said has been a staple for the team.
“At the end, our girls were continuing to fight and keep the ball off the floor,” Goral said. “We got some in-system looks and some of our best swings were at the end of our match. Sometimes you’ve got to settle down and allow yourself to play great volleyball, and we did that (at the end).”
Campbell’s season comes to an end after winning the Big South and securing its first ever trip to the NCAA Tournament.
“I said it a couple of times, if we’re going to go somewhere for our first ever NCAA Tournament appearance, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else than somewhere that truly appreciates volleyball,” Goral said. “To have 7,000 fans cheering whenever you do something well regardless of the team, it’s a great feeling.”
The Huskers will host Florida State in the round of 32 on Saturday at 7 p.m.. The matchup will be the fourth all-time meeting and the first time since 2014, with Nebraska leading the all-time series 2-1.
Florida State won convincingly in the first round, defeating Kansas State 25-20, 25-16, 25-17. The Seminoles, now 20-9, finished the regular season fifth in the Atlantic Coast Conference. They went 11-7 in conference play and are 1-4 when facing ranked teams.
Cook said the Huskers have seen Florida State play, but they haven’t yet been able to fully prepare for the matchup.
“In the tournament, you cannot prepare for three teams,” Cook said. “But we are used to playing a match and then you have to prepare the very next day for a team, so this is standard procedure for us.”
SOUND FROM THE NEWSMAKERS:
Nebraska Middle Blocker Lauren Stivrins will likely play her last match in the Devaney Center Saturday vs Florida State:
Nebraska Coach John Cook responds to the crowd’s overwhelming reaction when Senior Callie Schwarzenbach was inserted into the match in the third set.
Campbell Coach Greg Goral says making their first-ever NCAA appearance in Lincoln was special:
Coach Goral says they played hard but not well enough: