LINCOLN, Neb. -- The Ohio volleyball team (1-4) suffered a pair of losses on the opening day of the Ameritas Players Challenge today at the Bob Devaney Sports Center, falling to No. 5-ranked Nebraska (2-1), 3-0 (25-17, 25-14, 25-17), and Santa Clara (4-2), 3-0 (29-27, 25-18, 25-20).
Junior outside hitter Lizzie Stephens (Dallas, Texas) led the Bobcats with seven kills. Redshirt junior middle blocker Simone Miller (Kalamazoo, Mich.) posted a team-high four assisted blocks. Sophomore setter Vera Giacomazzi (San Vendemiano, Italy) dished out a team-high 13 assists. Sophomore libero/defensive specialist Macy Reihing (Lexington, Ky.) led Ohio with eight digs.
"Early on, I think we pushed tempo pretty well on the left pin," said fifth-year head coach Deane Webb. "We were able to score, particularly Lizzie was scoring well. We had struggle connecting with the middle, struggle connecting behind. Really struggled scoring at the right pin today. I think that was a major, major struggle. We had 17 swings and only two kills, and that's something that's going to have to increase."
Nebraska hit .349 as a team in the victory. Senior outside hitter Mikaela Foecke led the defending national champion Cornhuskers with 17 kills and hit .593. Sophomore middle blocker Lauren Stivrins hit .500 with nine kills and recorded a match-high five total blocks (two solo, three assisted) and four service aces. Freshman setter Nicklin Hames distributed a match-high 28 assists. Senior defensive specialist/libero Kenzie Maloney recorded a match-high 11 digs.
"It was a great reminder of the level of program Nebraska is," said Webb. "Very, very physical at the net. Mikaela Foecke is impressive, as we expected, and Stivrins. Those were the two kids that we talked about and we thought would be really, really good, and they were. Give them credit. They did a great job in all phases of the game."
The Bobcats hit .238 and outblocked the Broncos, 7-2, but fell to Santa Clara in three sets. Redshirt senior right side hitter Katie Nelson (Regina Saskatchewan) led Ohio with nine kills, hitting .333 for the match. She also added three assisted blocks. Sophomore middle blocker Tia Jimerson (Sugar Hill, Ga.) hit .429 with eight kills and chipped in three assisted blocks. Miller led the match with four total blocks (one solo, three assisted). Giacomazzi handed out a team-high 16 assists. Freshman setter Kyra Slavik (Saint Charles, Ill.) handed out 14 assists and tied junior libero/defensive specialist Meredith Howe (Grand Rapids, Mich.) for the team lead with seven digs.
Santa Clara recorded a team hitting percentage of .316 in the win. Freshman outside hitter Michaelle Shaffer hit .385 with a match-high 12 kills and achieved a double-double with 12 digs. She also logged a match-high three service aces. Junior middle blocker Alexa Dreyer posted a .647 hitting percentage with 11 kills. Freshman setter Liliana Light achieved a double-double with a match-high 39 assists to go along with 10 digs. She also hit .600 with seven kills. Junior outside hitter Michelle Gajdka led the match with 13 digs while sophomore libero/defensive specialist Brittany Gillingham totaled 10 digs.
"We had some moments in the first set," said Webb. "Had opportunities to win that first set and didn't. We were just not very clean on defense and not particularly good in serve receive."
Ohio will look to end the weekend strong when it takes on Wake Forest in its final match of the Ameritas Players Challenge. Action gets underway at noon EST. Jake Hromada, 'The Voice of Ohio Volleyball', will have the call of the action on OhioBobcats.com via Stretch Internet's GameCentral.