Husker volleyball makes quick work of Hawkeyes as NU picks up 15th straight sweep of Iowa

IOWA CITY — The voices in Andie Malloy’s head were getting louder during the best week to date of her season. Or maybe she is just getting better at listening to them.

The voices — provided by her teammates to point out open spots on the court — didn’t steer Malloy wrong Saturday as the senior outside hitter led the charge in No. 1 Nebraska’s 25-17, 25-19, 25-13 sweep of Iowa at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Malloy’s 15 kills were the second-highest total of the year for the Baylor transfer, and came against only two errors for a .481 hitting percentage, her best mark since Sept. 16.

“I have my back-row players yelling ‘You have this shot open, or this shot,’ or ‘swing big,’ or ‘you have doughnut open,’ ” Malloy said. “I just hear these little chirps in my head from my teammates of what I have available. It really helped me.”

Much of Nebraska’s 14th consecutive win ran through NU’s left side. To complement Malloy, sophomore Mikaela Foecke had 10 kills on 15 swings to help Nebraska hit .314 and sweep Iowa for the 15th straight time in front of a school-record crowd for volleyball of 4,131 fans.

In her first match in Iowa City last year, Foecke, an outside hitter from West Point, Iowa, hit .115 playing against her homestate Hawkeyes. But Nebraska coach John Cook said Saturday’s steady performance, in which Foecke committed only one hitting error and added a few tough serving runs, demonstrated her progress as a sophomore.

“She’s a year older. She’s a year wiser. She’s more mature,” Cook said. “She gets blocked and it doesn’t bother her. I think she sees the game better, and probably the biggest thing is she’s way more consistent than she was last year.”

Nebraska (26-1, 17-1 Big Ten) pulled away with long stretches from the service line, and Kadie Rolfzen had the serve in the second set after Iowa (19-11, 9-9) tied it 17-17.

Malloy’s kill down the line started a 5-0 run that featured one ace by Rolfzen and another serve that forced a bad pass that pulled Iowa setter Loxley Keala into the net. By the time the run was over, Nebraska had surged ahead 22-17 and escaped the danger.

Two rallies later, Malloy snuffed out any remaining threat with an emphatic, out-of-system kill in the middle of the court after taking a bump set from libero Justine Wong-Orantes.

“I had the opportunity to take a big swing, and so I went for it,” Malloy said. “I knew my teammates would have my back covering, so I just went for it and took a rip.”

Foecke fired an ace, her 15th of the season, to cap a 5-0 run that put the Huskers up 6-1 in the third set. A few rallies later, Wong-Orantes dialed up back-to-back aces to make it 10-2, and the rout was on.

After a slow start, Kadie Rolfzen had five kills on eight swings in the finale, with Foecke putting down four more kills.

“I think it’s just a sign of the balance we have,” Foecke said. “We can go to the middles one game, the right sides, the outsides. It doesn’t matter how you set, I think Kelly, I hope she feels we’ll get a kill for her. I definitely have confidence in all our hitters.”

Reghan Coyle, a sophomore from Council Bluffs Lewis Central, was one of three Hawkeyes with seven kills, but the Hawkeyes often found themselves chasing the play because of Nebraska’s serving. Iowa hit .146 to become the 11th straight NU opponent to hit under .180.

The performance leaves the Huskers in control of their destiny for the Big Ten championship going into the regular season’s final week. NU faces a showdown at No. 2 Minnesota on Wednesday with a chance to clinch a share of the league title.

The Gophers are undefeated at home going into Sunday’s match against Michigan, providing a worthy foil to try to stop the Huskers from sewing up their first Big Ten crown since 2011.

“We’re just so close, and it’s right there,” Malloy said. “And it’s cool looking from (the start of the season), and now we’re right here. It’s right there within our grasp.”

Nebraska (26-1, 17-1)………….25 25 25

At Iowa (19-11, 9-9)……………17 19 13

NU (kills-aces-blocks): Foecke 10-1-0, Hunter 2-1-1, A. Rolfzen 4-0-6, K. Rolfzen 9-1-2, Holman 6-0-1, Albrecht 1-0-0, Wong-Orantes 0-2-0, Townsend 0-1-0, Malloy 15-0-5, Maloney 0-0-0. Totals 47-6-8.

UI: Mariani 5-0-2, Buzzerio 3-0-0, Klostermann 0-0-0, Coyle 7-0-1, Keala 1-0-0, Janota 7-0-2, Kelly 0-0-0, Ito 0-1-0, Olsen 0-0-0, Davey 0-0-0, Hoye 0-0-0, Brobst 7-0-0. Totals 30-1-4.

Set assists: NU 46 (Hunter 42, K. Rolfzen 2, Wong-Orantes 1, Malloy 1), UI 26 (Keala 23, Kelly 2, Olsen 1). A: 4,131.

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