SAN DIEGO — In a cathartic moment, Lexi Sun unleashed her most powerful shot on her final swing of the night to salvage her trip home.
The junior outside hitter, who grew up 40 minutes from the USD campus, recorded the final kill in Nebraska’s 22-25, 25-19, 22-25, 25-22, 15-11 comeback victory over No. 25 San Diego on Saturday night at the San Diego State/University of San Diego Invitational.
Sun led the Husker attack with a career-best 21 kills to go with 12 digs, four blocks and an ace in front of the pro-Nebraska crowd of 1,682 at the Jenny Craig Pavilion.
“She crushed that thing,” coach John Cook said on his postgame radio show. “I don’t know where that came from. Wow. That was a really impressive hit.
“Being at home, she’s got a lot of family here and that always inspires them.”
Sun’s kill capped the second-ranked Huskers’ best set of the night. NU didn’t trail in the fifth and converted 11 of its 25 attacks without an error.
Despite the strong finish, it took some time for the offense to find a rhythm. NU hit .097 with 11 kills and eight hitting errors in the first set.
The second set wasn’t much better, but the Huskers benefited from a multitude of San Diego errors. The Toreros committed seven hitting errors, four setting errors and four service errors.
NU (5-0) led 17-16 in the third set, but the Toreros went on an 8-3 run to take control. After the Huskers staved off two set points, USD closed it out on its 17th kill as the Toreros hit .325 in the set.
“I got to wrap my head around that one because I thought we were awful tonight,” Cook said. “San Diego is a really nice team. They play great defense, serve the crap out of it.
“We kind of won ugly and we played better as the match went on.”
The fourth set was tight, and no team led by more than three. The Huskers appeared to be in trouble late when San Diego took a 22-21 lead, but they closed with a 4-0 run that included three kills from Sun and a block from middle blocker Lauren Stivrins and setter Nicklin Hames.
Stivrins came alive late, recording seven of her 14 kills in the final two sets while her counterpart in the middle, Callie Schwarzenbach, added two of her three kills in that span.
“We could have killed in the middle, but we weren’t passing to be able to run middle,” Cook said. “Finally, Nicklin started forcing it in game four and five.”
USD (2-3) had four players finish with double-digit kills, led by 17 apiece from Katie Lukes and Grace Frohling.
Cook said that even though the Huskers struggled most of the night, they never gave up on each other.
“This team has a really deep belief in each other,” he said. “That’s what I told them in the locker room was that you could just tell they were pulling for each other.
“As the match got tighter and as we got to the end, they kept pulling together tighter and tighter and that was a real strength and players get confidence from that.”