Volleyball can’t sustain against No. 1 Nebraska

Travis Cordes

LINCOLN, Neb. &#8212 For the second straight year, the ISU volleyball team gave an unexpected scare to an often-boisterous sellout crowd at the Nebraska Coliseum.

After quieting the coliseum on several occasions in the first game, the Cyclones (11-7, 5-3 Big 12) took the No. 1 Nebraska Cornhuskers (15-0, 8-0 Big 12) to an extended game one before being swept (33-31, 30-19, 30-20) in front of a crowd of 4,061 on Wednesday in Lincoln, Neb.

The Cyclones outhit (.216-.191) and outdug (30-24) the Huskers in a very even game one, but came up short after forcing Nebraska to its fourth game point. Defense played a key role for both teams, each tallying four blocks in the first game.

“[Game one] was one of the best games we’ve played all year,” said coach Christy Johnson. “I felt like we were in great position to win, gaining great momentum, digging very well, and had plenty of opportunities. But then [Sarah] Pavan got on a roll and the match was over.”

Pavan, the 2006 American Volleyball Coaches Association National Player of the Year, led all players with 18 kills and hit .361 on the match.

After a tense game one, the Cyclones began to lose their grip on the Huskers, and they began to lose steam and were worn down by a relentless Husker offense.

“We spent everything we had toward winning game one,” said junior Jen Malcom. “We proved we are a good team, but we just need to come out and sustain the same fire for the whole match.”

Lauren Cummings was the only Cyclone to register double-digit kills, slamming 12 balls to the hardwood en route to a .375 hitting percentage in front of one of the most loyal and hostile environments in college volleyball.

“It’s one of the best sporting atmospheres in the entire country,” Cummings said. “It’s a great crowd that you can’t compare to anything. They won’t yell at you and will cheer no matter what; they’re just outstanding fans.”

The Cyclones put the Huskers in unfamiliar territory several times in the match, as they became the first team to take Nebraska to over 30 points in a game, as well as holding them to a .271 hitting percentage – their lowest in 12 matches this season.

“We really wanted to do what we do best – blocking and defense – at a very high level,” Johnson said. “We did it well in game one, but a couple of times we were in the wrong position, didn’t pick up a few balls I thought we should, and had trouble converting on some of the little things we had worked on this week.”

The teams were neck-and-neck in blocks and digs, with Nebraska holding a small 9.0-8.5 advantage. The Cyclones outdug the Huskers 54-51 on the match.

“The biggest thing to take from this match is knowing that we can play right with the best team in the nation,” Cummings said. “This just shows that when we play our game to the best of our ability, we can play with anybody.”