Volleyball suffers first loss in clash with Cornhuskers

Hitter Liz Gregorski sacrifices her body to save the ball against Omaha. The Wildcats defeated the Mavericks 3-0 in the home opener at Morgan Family Arena on Sept. 1. (Haylee Haslett | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State volleyball battled one of the best teams in the country in a tough 3-0. The No. 4 Nebraska Cornhuskers took a road victory in Morgan Family Arena on Sunday while the Wildcats pushed in multiple sets.

The first set started with both teams exchanging intense points. Neither team went ahead by more than one until the Wildcats held a 10-8 lead. Nebraska responded with back-to-back blocks at the net to take a 13-11 lead. 

Nebraska kept the lead throughout the set even as outside hitters Liz Gregorski and Aliyah Carter as well as middle blocker Sydney Bolding scored momentum-shifting plays at the net. The Cornhuskers prevailed and took the set 25-21 with Nebraska outside hitter Merritt Beason scoring eight kills.

Nebraska came out the gate firing in set 2 with five straight points. A couple kills from setter Izzi Szulczewski helped K-State crawl back but, the Cornhuskers again took a larger lead and won 25-15 after scoring seven of the last eight points in the set.

K-State put everything on the line in the third set to stay alive. Its first point featured multiple Wildcats digging deep on digs to keep the point alive including from libero and dig leader (12) Mackenzie Morris as K-State went up 1-0. 

“It’s knowing that teams like Nebraska aren’t gonna let you climb back up and we need to be disciplined and stay good over time,” Morris said. “I feel like that’s the most important thing we learn from these games.”

The Wildcats increased the lead to 9-5 and had momentum to try to take the set. The Cornhuskers didn’t allow it, regaining the lead at 14-13 and eventually winning 11 of the last 14 points to win 25-19.

The Wildcats may have lost, but K-State challenged Nebraska about as hard as the Cornhuskers have been challenged so far.

“You want to play the best,” head coach Jason Mansfield said. “You want to play the best teams to figure out where you’re at and I think Nebraska is a really good team. … We’re gonna learn a lot from this match. I thought we made a lot of really good plays that I haven’t seen us make in matches so I thought that was really cool. They brought that out of us.”

K-State had four members with five or more kills — led by Carter with nine — while scoring a 0.056 hitting percentage. On the other side, Nebraska had four players with nine or more.

“I think it was an eye opener just to see what we need to work on,” Carter said.

The Wildcats move to a 4-1 record before the Lipscomb Tournament at 6 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 8, against UT Martin in Allen Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.