IOWA CITY — After needing to step on the gas late to win the first two sets, No. 6 Nebraska went on cruise control to finish off a 25-15, 25-22, 25-13 sweep of Iowa on Wednesday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Outside hitter Mikaela Foecke reached 1,500 career kills on her first kill of the night. In her final match in her home state, the senior from West Point, Iowa, finished with a match-high 13 kills and hit .344.
Sophomore Lexi Sun had her eighth double-double of the season (12 kills, 11 digs), and freshman setter Nicklin Hames notched a double-double (30 assists, 17 digs) for the 11th straight match while setting NU to .333 hitting on the night.
“I thought we took care of business,” coach John Cook said in a postmatch radio interview. “It wasn’t the greatest effort, but it was very efficient. We didn’t make a lot of errors, except for serving. It was a good win on the road.”
Nebraska (19-6, 10-5 Big Ten) found itself idling at the halfway mark of each of the first two sets before pulling away late to win its third straight match and improve to 29-0 all time against Iowa (12-14, 5-10).
With NU leading 14-13 in Game 1, Foecke had three kills in a run of six straight Husker points. The captain would finish the opener with five kills as Nebraska ended the set on a 14-3 run.
In Game 2, Iowa built leads of 17-12 and 19-14 behind seven kills from Council Bluffs Lewis Central grad Reghan Coyle, who led the Hawkeyes with 11 kills.
But Foecke had another kill and served an ace to bookend a 4-0 run to close the deficit to 19-18. After a Coyle kill, Sun reeled off four straight kills to put Nebraska up 22-20. Sun would match Coyle with seven kills in Game 2, capping the comeback by dropping in a roll shot on set point to give Nebraska 11 of the set’s final 14 rallies.
Sun’s swings that put Nebraska in front came with the Huskers in Rotation 6, which Cook said isn’t the team’s best offensive setup, but tough serving by middle blocker Lauren Stivrins gave the Huskers good transition scoring chances. And Sun’s growing confidence showed in her match-changing swings.
Sun hit .400 Wednesday and has 35 kills over Nebraska’s past three matches.
“This Big Ten is a learning experience for her. I see progress from her every week,” Cook said. “She’s understanding how we’re trying to play. She’s learning how to get kills in this conference, which isn’t easy.
“I think Lexi is making really good progress, but I think she has so much upside and so much further to go than where she’s at right now.”
Nebraska raced to a 9-4 lead in Game 3 and put the match to bed with an 11-1 run capped by Sun’s ace to make it 22-8.
Cook said with Iowa playing a defense that dedicated an extra defender to scooping up Nebraska’s shots tipped over the block, Husker hitters found more success when they challenged blockers with aggressive swings and moved shots around the court.
“I kept telling them, ‘Let’s make some adjustments,’ ” Cook said. “Mikaela did, Lexi did. Those guys did a really nice job tonight, and I thought Nicklin set better as the match went on.”
Iowa, playing without leading hitter Cali Hoye — who was recently sidelined with a knee injury — hit a season-low .070. Senior outside hitter Taylor Louis, a preseason All-Big Ten pick, had nine kills but hit .069 as the Hawkeyes lost for the seventh time in eight matches.
Stivrins, the reigning Big Ten defensive player of the week, had four of Nebraska’s six blocks to go with seven kills.
Wednesday was the start of four straight road matches for the Huskers, and Cook said the travel schedule has him trying to find a balance between recuperation and preparation.
NU’s next two matches are against top-15 opponents. Nebraska will spend Friday preparing for a Saturday match at No. 15 Michigan, which will be stinging after being swept Wednesday at home by Maryland.
The Wolverines hit .066 with 28 attack errors Wednesday to hand the Terrapins their first road victory over a ranked opponent.
The Huskers opened Big Ten play with a four-set win over Michigan on Sept. 21 led by Foecke’s 21 kills.
Nebraska (19-6, 10-5)…………25 25 25
At Iowa (12-14, 5-10)…………15 22 13
NU (kills-aces-blocks): Foecke 13-1-3, Sun 12-2-0, Stivrins 7-0-4, Sweet 5-0-3, Schwarzenbach 4-0-2, Hames 2-1-0, Maloney 0-1-0. Totals 43-6-12.
Iowa: Coyle 11-0-0, Louis 9-0-0, Buzzerio 5-0-0, Clayton 4-0-1, Jones 1-2-0, Orr 0-1-0, Slagle 0-1-0. Totals 30-4-1.
Set assists: NU 38 (Hames 30, Maloney 5, Sun 2, Foecke 1). Iowa 28 (Orr 26, Buzzerio 1, Kelly 1). Attendance: 2,563.