The #8-seeded Husker Volleyball season ended in the Elite Eight, with the ladies losing 3-0 (25-19, 25-22, 25-23) to the #1-seeded Texas Longhorns in the NCAA Tournament Regional Final in front of over 8,300 at the Bob Devaney Sports Center. It marked the first sweep of the Huskers in Lincoln in 24 years.
It should be noted that the Devaney Center had more fans watching the Purdue-Wisconsin match on the big screen at Devaney than were in attendance at the match live. That same screen is how the Texas Volleyball Team learned that the Head Football Coach, Mack Brown, had resigned.
Texas started the first set strong, opening up a 5-1 lead with the only Husker point being on a Texas serving error. The Longhorns basically held the same lead until late in the set.
The Huskers seemed timid and tense out of the gate. Hitting was tentative, and the blocking was late and full of errors. Many of the young players looked their age. Even Kelsey Robinson, the B1G Player of the Year, hit a fairly pedestrian .200.
In the second set, the Huskers started stronger, taking an early lead, and opening it up to as many as four points before blocking and hitting errors allowed the Longhorns back into the set and on to the eventual win.
Set three was almost a carbon copy of set two. However, Melanie Keil was on the court, and seemed to help inject a bit of energy into the Huskers. The Huskers tied the set late, but couldn’t take the lead.
The Huskers were outhit .266-.176. The Longhorns far and away outblocked the Huskers, 14-3. Digging was a bright spot for the Huskers, with a 63-58 advantage.
Throughout the night, Texas took advantage of poor play by middle blockers Meghan Haggerty and Cecilia Hall. Blocks were late and not tightly closed, and did not adjust well to the Longhorn attack.
While middle blockers are rarely a large part of the offense, they fact that Husker middles generated only three kills through two sets meant that the Texas block could focus on the pin hitters. It seemed that both Rolfzens were a bit frazzled by the Texas block this time around. They had more than a few shots that went out of bounds or were easily playable by the Texas defense.
There’s a lot to look forward to next season for the Huskers. Even though Robo’s gone, the rest of the starters return. The only other two seniors this year were Haley Thramer, who missed the season with an ACL injury, and Morgan Broekhuis, who saw very little playing time. There are a lot of young, athletic players who have invaluable experience.
Setter Mary Pollmiller was the lone contributing junior this season. A transfer from Tennessee with Robinson, her contribution in running the offense was often overlooked. She’ll be back next season to help guide the offense and help train whoever will replace her.
The only real question we have is, who will replace Robo? Will it be Kelsey Fien, who spelled Kadie Rolfzen from time to time? Will Amber move over from right side? If so, who replaces her? Is there a freshman or transfer who’s ready to step in?
When the season started, Meghan Haggerty was the only starter who’d had any meaningful amount of playing time for the Big Red. Having a chance to advance to the Final Four was not something many would have envisioned. This team should be very exciting to watch for awhile.