LINCOLN, Neb. – The No. 4 Nebraska volleyball team defeated No. 21 Kentucky, 3-1 (25-14, 25-22, 23-25, 25-21) on Sunday night in front of 8,531 at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.
Nebraska (9-0) finished non-conference play without a loss for the first time since 2016 and only the second time since 2008.
The Huskers hit .338, while the Wildcats hit .243. Nebraska had the edge in kills (62-53), blocks (9-7) and digs (61-48). Each team had four service aces, while the Huskers committed eight fewer errors.
Merritt Beason and Harper Murray each finished with 17 kills and 10 digs. Beason hit .438, and Murray hit .308. Ally Batenhorst totaled 12 kills, and Andi Jackson had 10 kills and three blocks with a .500 hitting percentage. Bekka Allick added four kills and a match-high six blocks.
Bergen Reilly put up a career-high 46 assists and 12 digs. Lexi Rodriguez had a season-high 18 digs with six set assists. Maisie Boesiger had a career-high six digs.
Kentucky dropped to 2-6 on the season with five losses to top 20 teams. Reagan Rutherford had 19 kills and hit .372 for the Wildcats.
Set 1: Kentucky held a 7-5 lead, but kills by Beason, Batenhorst and Jackson and a block by Allick and Murray put the Huskers in front 10-9. Allick and Beason added another block after a Murray kill for a 12-10 lead, and a back row kill from Batenhorst made it 13-10 Huskers. After two Kentucky errors, Murray and Allick teamed up for a block, and a one-handed dig by Rodriguez led to a Beason kill for a 17-10 advantage. Beason and Batenhorst tacked on two more kills around an ace by Rodriguez as the Huskers built the lead to 22-12. Jackson posted two kills and Murray finished off the set at 25-14. Nebraska hit .464 in the opening set and held Kentucky to .133.
Set 2: Nebraska trailed 8-7 but scored six of the next eight points to go up 13-10. Beason had two kills, while Murray, Allick and Batenhorst each had one. After a Kentucky sideout, Beason tallied two more kills around a Jackson solo block for a 16-11 Husker lead. The Wildcats clawed back to within one, 17-16, when Reilly and Murray produced clutch kills for the Big Red to go up 19-16. An ace by Maisie Boesiger and two kills by Murray put NU up by four, 22-18, and the Huskers won 25-22 on a kill by Beason.
Set 3: Nebraska came back from a 6-2 deficit to tie the score at 6-6 with Batenhorst recording two kills and a block with Jackson. But Kentucky went on a 6-1 run to make it 12-7 Huskers. After a timeout, Reilly had a kill and Kennedi Orr served an ace to cut it to 12-9. Murray, Beason, Batenhorst and Jackson tallied kills to get NU within one point on four occasions, but Kentucky answered each time. Jackson brought NU within one again, 18-17, and this time Murray terminated to tie the score at 18-18. But a kill and ace by Kentucky setter Emma Grome made it 20-18 Wildcats, and Kentucky earned set point at 24-21. The Wildcats committed an error, and Beason served an ace to pull NU within 24-23, but Kentucky held on to win 25-23.
Set 4: The set began with a Kentucky service error, a kill by Murray and a block by Reilly and Allick for a 3-0 Husker lead. But Kentucky charged back to gain a 10-5 lead with a 7-1 run. Beason and Jackson had kills, and Jackson combined with Reilly for a block as NU pulled within 12-9. The Huskers then won a 71 second rally, capped by a Murray kill, to cut it to 12-10. Allick was in on two blocks – one with Reilly and one with Murray – to make the deficit only one, 14-13. Kentucky went ahead 16-13, but back-to-back kills by Murray cut it to 16-15. Beason and Batenhorst swung for three straight kills, and Kentucky committed an attacking error for a 20-18 Husker lead. Brooklyn DeLeye earned a sideout for Kentucky with a kill, but Jackson answered for the Big Red. Boesiger then kept a ball up that led to a Kentucky hitting error to make it 22-19 Huskers. The Wildcats scored the next two to cut it to 22-21, but Beason terminated from the back row again and Murray smashed an overpass for a 24-21 Husker lead. NU sealed the win on a Kentucky hitting error.
Up Next: The Huskers begin Big Ten play on Friday at 8 p.m. against No. 19 Ohio State at the Devaney Center. NU will also host No. 9 Minnesota next Sunday at 6:30 p.m.