In front of a sellout crowd of more than 6,000 at the University of Wisconsin Fieldhouse, the #14 Nebraska Huskers Volleyball team took on the #5 Wisconsin Badgers. In a hard-fought three sets, the Huskers lost 3-0 (19-25, 21-25, 18-25) snapping a 17-match win streak against the Badgers.
Alicia Ostrander started again for the Huskers, curious after the phenomenal end of the match that Kelsey Fien had on Wednesday, but it was effective early, as Alicia was a key part of an early 4-1 lead for the Huskers.
However, it was short lived as Wisconsin fought back during the service rotation of Wisconsin’s Lauren Carlini tied the set at four.
Wisconsin took their first lead 6-5, and opened it up to 9-5 forcing Coach Cook’s first timeout of the set. The Badgers blocked well and forced Husker hitting errors early, and took advantage of the Husker defense by using the same off-speed attacks that had been successful for Minnesota on Wednesday.
A kill by Amber Rolfzen out of the timeout halted Wisconsin’s 8-1 run. The Huskers fought back to within one at 9-10, but let Wisconsin open the lead to as much as four before fighting back to within one again at 15-16. The Badgers opened up a 20-17 lead which forced Nebraska’s second and final timeout of the set.
Mistakes by the Huskers after the last timeout pushed the Wisconsin lead to five, 23-18, and Kelsey Fien entered the match for the Huskers. She got a kill on her first attempt, but Wisconsin answered to take a 24-19 lead and then win the set 25-19.
Lauren Carlini’s brilliance was on full display in the first set, demonstrating for a national audience why she was the B1G Freshman of the Year last year. She was deceptive with her sets and with her dumps.
The second set started out with a 2-0 lead for the Badgers, but the Huskers tied it up at three with kills from both Rolfzens and Fien.
Nebraska took the lead at 5-4, and opened it up to as much as three at 9-6, which held until Wisconsin closed to 11-10, but Amber Rolfzen ended the small run by Wisconsin with a kill, making the score 12-10 Big Red.
Wisconsin tied it up at 12, and the teams traded points briefly, but Wisconsin had the lead at the media timeout, 15-14.
Wisconsin began to dominate out of the timeout, opening up the lead to 19-15 and forcing Nebraska’s first timeout of the second set.
The Huskers scored the first three points out of the timeout thanks to two kills by Fien and a block by Amber Rolfzen and forced Wisconsin’s first timeout of the set.
The Huskers tied it up at 19 out of the timeout, but then two tricky plays by Wisconsin opened up a 21-19 lead for the Badgers. A controversial call, that was hard to see even on replay, gave Nebraska the 23-20 and forced the Huskers’ second timeout of the set.
The Huskers didn’t get anything going out of the timeout, and Wisconsin won the set 25-21.
Through two sets, the Badgers were outhitting Nebraska .250-.148 with six more kills, 31-25.
Wisconsin took the lead early in the third set, but didn’t pull away until 8-5. The Badgers took an 11-7 lead and forced the Huskers’ first timeout.
Nebraska didn’t get much closer out of the timeout, and Wisconsin kept playing phenomenally. With a 15-9 lead by Wisconsin, the Huskers used their second timeout of the set.
Wisconsin pushed the lead to eight at 18-10 before Sydney Thompson came in to serve. Thompson served two tough serves, including one ace, and forced the Wisconsin timeout with the score 18-13 Badgers. Haggerty and Ostrander (who was in for Kadie Rolfzen) got a great combo block to push the score to 18-14 Wisconsin.
However, Ostrander couldn’t get her attack to cross the net, and Wisconsin got the block and the pushed the score to 20-14. Nebraska never fought back into the set and eventually lost it 25-18.
For the match, the Huskers hit .143 with 37 kills while Wisconsin hit .265 with 46. Amber Rolfzen led the way for the Huskers with 10 kills while Kadie Rolfzen and Kelsey Fien each had 9.
The Badgers led in every statistical category except service aces, both teams had three. They outdug (56-51), outblocked (8-6), and outhit the Huskers. Wisconsin showed why they’re number one in the B1G.
This match didn’t tell us anything we don’t already know about the Huskers. They’ve managed to step up against good teams (Texas, Penn State) and they did that against Wisconsin, mostly.
Hannah Werth called this match for ESPN, and showed herself to be as capable behind the mic as she is on the volleyball court. She was able to break down a lot of plays in ways I haven’t heard other announcers do this year. It was really great to listen to her call the match.
Werth made mention of the lack of leadership within the ranks of the Husker players, comparing the Rolfzens to Lauren Carlini, Wisconsin’s setter who is, like the Rolfzens, a sophomore.
In the third set, two straight errors by the Rolfzen twins led, inexplicably, to Cici Hall being subbed out and replaced by Melanie Keil. This is a recurring theme by the Husker coaching staff, and doesn’t make a lot of sense. Eventually, we did see Ostrander inserted for a struggling Kadie Rolfzen, but that didn’t pay dividends, and was short-lived.
It should be mentioned, again, that Lauren Carlini is far from a secret weapon for Wisconsin, but this girl is good. She had a couple of sets that were unfathomably good, and she was so deceptive in her sets that the blocks were often flat-footed and rendered ineffective. It’s ridiculous that she’s only a sophomore. She’ll be fun to watch for the remainder of her career.