This story was posted at 1:29 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 6.
The No. 2 Nebraska women’s volleyball team was eager to show its newly anointed high ranking was no fluke. Playing before a raucous crowd of Cal Poly supporters, the Cornhuskers did just that.
Nebraska (5-0) easily handled the No. 14 Mustangs (3-2) in straight sets, 25-20, 25-19, 25-20 at Mott Gym on Friday.
“We did not play well,” Cal Poly head coach Jon Stevenson said. “We had a chance to get this crowd going into a frenzy.”
The crowd of 2,533 was the third-largest ever at Mott Gym for a volleyball match, but its energy wasn’t enough to stop the grinding attack of the Cornhuskers.
“Coming in here with the tradition they have on this court, and as much success they have had here, it was a great effort from our team,” Nebraska head coach John Cook said.
Led by the outside hitting duo of senior Jordan Larson and sophomore Tara Mueller, Nebraska never trailed by more than three points in any game. Mueller led the Cornhuskers with 13 kills while Larson added 11 kills and 11 digs.
“Jordan Larson, it doesn’t matter whether it’s serving, attacking, passing, defense – she’s great,” Cook said. “I thought one of the keys was she got on (Kylie) Atherstone tonight and slowed her down some.”
Atherstone, the All-American senior opposite and two-time defending Big West Conference Player of the Year, led Cal Poly with 13 kills and a .303 hitting percentage on a night when Nebraska’s stifling defense held the Mustangs to a .110 hitting percentage as a team.
“Kylie Atherstone played very well,” Stevenson said. “She came to play. She brought that rocket left arm. Considering the pressure that is on her to put the ball away, I give her a lot of credit.”
Atherstone knows that this may not be the last time the two teams meet this season.
“It’s always a humbling experience to play a team that’s playing really well,” she said. “I think that our main motivation in playing these teams early in the season is to prepare us for later in the NCAA Tournament. So when we get to that point, we’ve already played them, they’re No. 2, so when we get to the tournament we’re relaxed, we’re calm, we understand that we’ve been there before.”
Nebraska took a lead in the first game at 13-12 and never looked back, reeling off six of the next eight points for a 20-14 advantage.
The second set started well for the Mustangs, as they took a 6-3 lead, but Nebraska would once again go on a run. With the set tied at 13, they would win nine of the next 14 points for a commanding 22-17 advantage.
Nebraska jumped out early in the third set, taking an 18-11 lead at one point before Cal Poly made a last surge to get within one point at 20-19. The Cornhuskers would go on to secure five of the last six points to close out the match, which snapped Cal Poly’s streak of nine consecutive wins at home.
“They’re a really dominating team,” Atherstone said. “They know how to win every point. They go after it. It’s a good lesson to learn. We have to go every point like it’s game point. And I think that’s what Nebraska did.”
Stevenson was convinced the loss could be chalked up more to his team – which concludes its tournament play at 3 p.m. today against Northeastern – than the effort of Nebraska.
“I think we could be so much better,” he said. “I really think this is just a story of us not playing very well.”