Outside hitter Caitie Baird had 21 kills with an outstanding .487 hitting percentage to lead the 16th-ranked Stanford volleyball team to a four-set win against No. 6 Nebraska on Tuesday in Stanford, California.
The Cardinal were stronger at the finish in a 25-19, 12-25, 25-21, 25-23 win.
Nebraska has dropped back-to-back matches to fall to 6-2.
Nebraska coach John Cook made his boldest lineup decision yet this season, going with freshmen at the two starting outside hitters spots. Lindsay Krause started at outside hitter for the first time after previously playing right-side hitter. Ally Batenhorst also started at outside hitter, which meant returning starters Lexi Sun and Madi Kubik didn’t play most of the match.
Nebraska had four freshmen in the starting lineup — Whitney Lauenstein was the right-side hitter and Lexi Rodriguez the libero.
The freshmen weren’t very successful hitting in the first set, but improved as the match went.
Batenhorst had 10 kills (.098 hitting), Krause 10 kills (.088 hitting) and Lauenstein five kills (.105 hitting).
Earlier this season Cook may have made a change after a rough first set for the Husker hitters, but he stuck with his starters for the second set.
“We just made the decision we were going to go with those guys tonight and see what they could do,” Cook said on the Husker Radio Network. “We haven’t had any of our (outsides) hit any better than that this year, so we’re trying to find options and I wanted to give Whitney another shot and see what she could do. I thought she did some nice things.
“We got to start getting people over there where they’re not looking over their shoulder and thinking they’re going to get pulled if they’re not doing well. So that was another goal tonight.”
Sun and Kubik each played as serving subs. Kubik was strong serving, recording two aces.
Nebraska’s strength was at middle blocker. Kayla Caffey had 10 kills on .429 hitting. She also had seven blocks. Callie Schwarzenbach had nine kills on .500 hitting.
Nicklin Hames had 43 assists, along with 11 digs and two blocks.
“I thought Nicklin set really well,” Cook said. “It was her best match setting of the year, and Kayla Caffey played really well tonight.”
Stanford hit .235 for the match, and Nebraska .179.
Nebraska made a big turnaround in the second set. Stanford won the first set 25-19, when Nebraska had just a .119 hitting percentage. But Nebraska recovered in the second set, hitting .385 and dominating the set to tie the match 1-1.
Cook liked how the Huskers competed, but giving up too many short runs to the Cardinal cost the Huskers.
“We gave up a big run in set one, and we gave up a big run in set three, and that’s when our passing broke down,” Cook said. “And that’s the difference when you play a team like that. We can’t give up a 3-0 or 4-0 run like we did, and passing balls that you can’t even bump set. I thought that was the difference in the match. Our block and defense was good enough to win.”
Stanford has won four straight matches against Nebraska.
— Brent C. Wagner