HuskerOnline - Three takes from No. 9 Nebraska volleyball knocking off No. 7 Purdue 3-1
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Three takes from No. 9 Nebraska volleyball knocking off No. 7 Purdue 3-1

No. 9 Nebraska volleyball (16-3, 10-0) took down No. 7 Purdue (14-5, 6-4) in four sets after staging a momentum-changing comeback in the first set and "weathering the storm" in set four (23-25, 25-18, 25-15, 25-21).

Here are three takes from Nebraska's first top 10 victory this season:

The first set comeback

The middle of the first set against Purdue was looking a little bleak for Nebraska. At one point, the Boilermakers were hitting .636 and the Huskers had a .182 clip.

Nebraska Head Coach John Cook called a timeout down as the Huskers were down 22-13. He said he told them to find a way to get some momentum to take into the next set.

Nebraska found that momentum and then some.

The Huskers went on a 10-1 scoring run but lost the first set 25-23. However, they got into a rhythm offensively, the defense was much improved and defensive specialist Kenzie Knuckles had two aces, including one perfectly played in the back right corner of the court.

The crowd was electric as it attempted to will its Huskers to a victory.

"That's the first time I've heard the crowd this year really getting after it," Cook said.

Middle blocker Kayla Caffey said the crowd helped continue Nebraska's momentum.

"I think the crowd was kind of taken out of it a little bit, too, as we were," Caffey said. "The energy was down. But I think as we started to build momentum and get those points, I think they definitely helped fuel our fire and just helped us to take down the Boilermakers in that set."

While NU didn't win the first set, the momentum the team created for itself and the energy the crowd brought carried over.

"Floor defense was the difference"

After the match, Cook said Nebraska's "floor defense was the difference."

In the first set, Purdue was hitting .626 at one point and finished was a .429 clip for the set. They had one hitting error.

The Huskers' defense woke up at the 22-13 point and started digging more balls and passing better to setter Nicklin Hames, who had 48 assists and 17 digs. Nebraska's offense was feeding off its back-row defense's big plays.

Nebraska finished the match with 70 digs. Libero Lexi Rodriguez tied her career-high 24 digs which she had earlier this season against Omaha. Rodriguez also had six assists. Outside hitter Madi Kubik had 10 digs to go along with her team-high 15 kills.

Purdue hit zero in the second set and -.061 in set three after hitting .429 in the first set.

"They hit .123 for the match and they hit .429 in the first game so that's a pretty good defensive effort right there on our part," Cook said.

The Boilermakers' .123 hitting percentage on the match was their lowest of the season as they hit .124 against Louisville. In the Big Ten, their lowest clip was .176 against Ohio State.

Purdue's Caitlyn Newton, who was hitting .234 on the season before Saturday, hit .462 in the first set and -.026 after. She had nine kills and 10 errors in the remaining three sets.

When asked about Newton's performance, Caffey's answer was short and sweet.

"She's a great player," Caffey said.

Middle blocker dominance

For the first time this season, middle blockers Lauren Stivrins and Caffey both had double-digit kills.

Stivrins recorded a season-high 14 kills with three errors, two coming from set one. She hit .393 and accounted for five block assists.

Caffey also added 14 kills with one error and hit a match-high .619. She had three kills in Nebraska's first-set comeback.

Cook said that the Huskers emphasized setting the middles in their game plan. Kubik said the middle hitter's performance against Purdue helped the entire offense.

"They were connecting so well with Nicklin (Hames) and they were scoring almost every single time," Kubik said. "They open so much opportunity for the hitters, leaving a lot of people one on one in different situations and I think we're able to capitalize on that which is awesome."

Nebraska will face one of the best middle blockers in the country in Dana Rettke on Wednesday went No. 3 Wisconsin (17-1, 9-1) travels to Lincoln for another Top 10 matchup. The Huskers middles will need to step up and help match Rettke's performance.

Beating their first top 10 opponent this season is a good momentum creator for Nebraska as they head into another ranked match.