No. 20 Utah Stuns No. 3 Nebraska In Five-Set Thriller
LINCOLN, Neb. – After dropping the opening two sets, the No. 20-ranked Utah volleyball team stunned the No. 3-ranked Nebraska Huskers in front of 8,362 fans at the Devaney Center on Saturday night in a five-set thriller (18-25, 24-26, 27-25, 25-22, 15-13) to remain undefeated on the season. Utah began its rally late in the third set and never looked back, moving to 7-0 on the season and handing Nebraska (6-1) its first loss of the year.
"Once we were in the third set and then battling in the fourth, I thought about what a great situation this is to be in this early in the season," said head coach Beth Launiere. "We showed great mental composure throughout the fourth and fifth sets. Early in the season you are trying to define yourselves as a team, and this was an incredible opportunity to play a great team and define ourselves in this moment. We defended tremendously and everyone was doing their role. It truly was a team effort tonight."
Utah fell in a hole to begin the match after dropping the opening two frames in the hostile environment. The Utes struggled to settle in offensively and posted a -0.31 hitting percentage in the first set, and just a 0.070 clip in the second. The tides turned offensively in the next three sets where the Utes hit .326, .276, and .346, to guide Utah to a road victory.
The Utes took a minute to settle in and trailed early in the first set. Despite battling back to tie the first set at 12-12, Nebraska built out a lead and finished the Utes 25-18 in the opening frame. The second set played out to where Utah sat in the lead down the stretch, and managed to hold a 23-20 lead, but the lead slipped away. Utah had a set point at 24-23, but could not convert and saw the Huskers record three-straight points to steal the second set 26-24.
With their backs against the wall, Utah stayed the course and began its charge in the third set. The two ranked teams went back-and-forth in the third frame and Utah found itself trailing 16-14 just past the midway mark of the set. A 3-0 run put the Utes back in front, but the Huskers found a way to grab a 20-18 lead shortly after.
A kill from Zoe Weatherington, who had a career night for the Utes, followed by consecutive services aces from Megan Yett pushed Utah out in front once again with the score set at 21-20. The teams went point for point until Nebraska managed to collect two points in a row for its first set point. Madelyn Robinson put down a kill to keep Utah alive and after another Nebraska sideout, Weatherington tallied two more kills for a Utah set point. An attack error from the Huskers would end the set in favor of the Utes 27-25.
In the middle of the fourth set, Utah scored seven of nine points to gain some distance on Nebraska and led by a score of 17-12 to silent the crowd. The Utes maintained a commanding lead and put themselves in a position to close out the set after reaching the first set point at 24-18. Nebraska tried to rally and managed to cut the lead to 24-22, but Weatherington continued to answer for Utah and ended the set at 25-22 with another kill.
The fifth and final set proved to be a thriller between the two ranked teams as the set was separated by no more than two points from 7-5 on. Utah held an 11-9 lead late in the set, but back-to-back Husker kills evened the set. Dani Drews came up big with a kill, but the Utes couldn't sustain the momentum and saw the Huskers grab the next two points. Trailing 13-12 on the road, Drews answered to square the set once again, while an attack error put Utah at match point. Closing the match was Stef Jankiewicz, who went over on two and scored on her dump to end the match and see Utah come away with the huge upset.
Drews posted a season-high 27 kills and recorded her second straight double-double with 16 digs. Weatherington recorded a career-high 17 kills to aid Utah's offense and also put up five blocks. Robinson also tallied a double-double, reaching 12 kills and 12 digs on the evening.
Jankiewicz led the offense with a season-high 50 assists, while also posting 14 digs for her fourth straight double-double. Also having a career night and leading the tremendous defensive effort was libero Vanessa Ramirez, who tallied a career-high 21 digs. Megan Yett posted a career-high five services aces on Saturday night and also put up 12 digs.
Utah will continue road play on Monday, Sept. 13 against the Boise State Broncos. Utah and Boise State will play at 3:30 p.m. MT in Bronco Gym.