NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — If Friday night’s sweep of No. 2 Penn State was a test of Nebraska’s resolve, then the quick turnaround Saturday against Rutgers was a test of how well the 14th-ranked Huskers could adjust.
By showcasing its depth against a program that has a single Big Ten victory at the start of its fourth season in the conference, NU punched the clock with a 25-15, 25-20, 25-11 win and moved on to bigger challenges.
After a 2-0 weekend to start Big Ten play, Nebraska (9-3, 2-0) will host No. 1 Minnesota and No. 5 Wisconsin next weekend at the Devaney Center.
“It’s probably the toughest weekend in the conference playing Minnesota and Wisconsin,” coach John Cook said on his postmatch radio interview.
The Huskers didn’t get caught napping in between Friday’s win and next weekend’s high-profile visitors. NU topped the .300 clip for the fifth time in six matches by hitting .376 against the Scarlet Knights, the Huskers’ second-best attack percentage of the season.
Senior setter Kelly Hunter polished off an excellent weekend with 35 assists, six digs and three blocks Saturday. The All-American from Papillion-La Vista South also moved into sixth on the school’s all-time assist chart and set Nebraska to a .359 mark over the weekend wins.
“I think she’s played a lot of matches at a high level, and I think she’s still working her way back,” Cook said. “Tonight, she was taking some risks in the middle tonight, which is really good. I think we connected almost on every one.
“Last night, she certainly proved herself in a big match that she’s getting close to being back.”
Outside hitter Anni Albrecht’s game-high 12 kills put the senior from North Aurora, Illinois, in double figures for the fourth straight match. Junior Mikaela Foecke had 11 kills without an error on 19 swings in just over two sets before being spelled by Olivia Boender in the third set.
As has become custom against Rutgers (5-9, 0-2), which has lost 61 of its 62 Big Ten matches, Nebraska went deep into the bench to try some new combinations. Twelve Huskers played, including freshman middle blocker Chesney McClellan, who made her first collegiate start when Cook elected to rest senior Briana Holman, who played Friday after injuring her ankle last weekend.
McClellan, who found herself across the net from a former club teammate in Rutgers freshman Kamila Cieslik, had seven kills and hit .462 to go with three blocks.
“She followed the game plan beautifully,” Cook said. “Kelly was really confident setting her, and I thought (McClellan) did a really good job.”
Redshirt freshman middle Lauren Stivrins added eight kills on .400 hitting for Nebraska, which has swept all four meetings against the Scarlet Knights since joining the Big Ten.
Rutgers, which started six underclassmen, hit .135 and was led by sophomore Jillian Duffin’s 10 kills on .400 hitting.
“I thought Rutgers competed really hard,” Cook said. “I think they’re improved from last year from what I remember. They just have a little smoother system. They know what they’re doing. Their freshmen did a nice job for them.”
No. 14 Nebraska (9-3, 2-0)…….25 25 25
At Rutgers (5-9, 0-2)…………….15 20 11
NU (kills-aces-blocks): Albrecht 12-0-1, Foecke 11-1-0, Stivrins 8-0-2, McClellan 7-0-3, Sweet 4-0-1, Hunter 3-1-3, Boender 1-1-0. Totals 46-3-10.
RU: Duffin 10-0-3, McLetchie 8-0-2, Cieslik 5-1-0, Steakhouse 3-0-1, Miljevic 2-0-4. Totals 28-2-10.
Set assists: NU 41 (Hunter 35, Maloney 3, Albrecht 1, Stivrins 1, Townsend 1), RU 25 (Sharkey 24, Miljevic 1)