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Husker Volleyball: Nebraska Drops Thriller to Buckeyes

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The night after a HUGE win against defending national champion Penn State, the Husker Volleyball Team lost a five-set thriller to the Ohio State Buckeyes.

David McGee

After the unbelievable emotion of a four-set thriller over Penn State, The Husker women welcomed the Ohio State Buckeyes to the Bob Devaney Sports Center on Saturday night.  Be it hangover or relaxing after the high intensity of Friday night, the Huskers lost 2-3 (27-25, 25-27, 25-23, 17-25, 16-14)

The Huskers opened up a 4-1 lead on the Buckeyes to start set one, but Ohio State brought it back to 4-3 before another Husker run opened the lead again. Ohio State Head Coach Geoff Carlston took his first timeout down 8-4 to the Huskers.

Nebraska pushed the lead to 12-7, but the Buckeyes clawed their way back in and forced Coach Cook’s first timeout leading 12-11.

Out of the timeout, Ohio State tied it up at 12, and the teams traded sideouts for a bit until the Huskers took the two-point lead at 19-17 and forced Ohio State’s second timeout of the set.

Ohio State took advantage of the break and fought back to take the lead at 20-19, forcing Coach Cook to use his first timeout of the match. Ohio State scored again to make the Husker deficit two, 19-21. Nebraska fought back and took the lead 22-21 on a Wisconsin back row block.

The tension ramped up in Devaney when Ohio State took a 23-22 lead, and then used a touch on the Nebraska block to earn their first set point.

A Mary Pollmiller kill gave the Huskers the serve, but Ohio State had their second set point. An error by Ohio State tied it at 24.

Ohio State had another set point at 25-24, but served the ball into the middle of the net and gave the Huskers the serve and the tie game. Another error by the Ohio State attack line gave Nebraska their first set point, and the Huskers took advantage, taking the first set 27-25.

The Buckeyes actually outhit the Huskers .289-.256, but blocking errors by Ohio State and solid blocking by the Huskers proved to be the difference. The Buckeyes had key blocking errors late, and the Huskers had five total blocks to Ohio State’s two. Mary Pollmiller and Cecilia Hall both recorded solo blocks for the Big Red.

Kadie Rolfzen led the attack for the Huskers with four kills on seven attempts with no errors to hit .571. Amber Rolfzen hit .667 with two kills on just three attempts.

The second set started the way much of the first set went, the teams exchanging serves, sideouts, and leads.

Nebraska finally took a 5-4 lead and extended it to 10-4 on Justine Wong-Orantes’s serve before Ohio State forced a sideout.

Two more quick points by the Husker attack forced an Ohio State timeout trailing 12-5.

Nebraska held on to the lead, though Ohio State closed it up, forcing a Husker timeout with the lead 15-11 Huskers. The timeout worked, and the Huskers got what we call a "Coach’s Point" when Katie Mitchell hit her serve into the middle of the net.

However, the Buckeyes kept the pressure on the Huskers, and a service ace by Elizabeth Campbell brought Ohio State to within one, and forced the second Husker timeout of the set with the 17-16 lead.

Cecilia Hall got the block out of the timeout, and an assisted block by Kadie Rolfzen and Meghan Haggerty pushed the lead to 19-16 Huskers.

The teams fought point-for-point, but Ohio State never got closer than one and an assisted block by Cecilia Hall and Kelsey Fien gave Nebraska their first set point, 24-22.

An Elizabeth Campbell kill and Ohio State block tied the set at 24 apiece. Amber Rolfzen got a kill on an overpass to give the Huskers their third set point and force an Ohio State timeout with the score 25-24 Huskers.

Ohio State tied the score again at 25 and a Kadie Rolfzen attack error gave Ohio State their first set point up 26-25. Ohio State won the set 27-25 when the Huskers couldn’t quite corral an errant dig.

Ohio State outhit Nebraska .160-.119 in the second set. Kadie Rolfzen had four more kills in the second set, and was hitting .292 through two sets.

Ohio State kept pace with Nebraska with five blocks apiece in the second set. The Huskers had one blocking error to none for Ohio State.

Set three started in much the same manner as the other sets, with the teams trading points early.

The score slid between a two-point Husker lead and a tie game until the media timeout with Nebraska holding a 15-14 lead after a Kelsey Fien kill.

Very little changed out of the media timeout, as the margin swung between a one-point lead for both teams and Ohio State used their first timeout trailing 20-19.

Neither team gained separation until Meghan Haggerty was left in to serve and opened up a 23-21 lead forcing Ohio State’s second timeout of the set.

Haggerty served an ace out of the timeout, but served long on the first Husker set point and the Huskers used their first timeout holding their second set point, 24-22.

After a block by the Buckeyes, Coach Cook took his second timeout with the score 24-23 Nebraska.

Out of the timeout, Alyssa Winner served wide and the Huskers took the set 25-23.

Both teams hit well in the third, with Nebraska having an edge .343-.306. Kadie Rolfzen led the Huskers by a wide margin with 13 kills through three and a hitting percentage of .289. Cecilia Hall (.267) and Kelsey Fien (.214) added seven kills apiece and Mary Pollmiller had six kills on nine attempts to hit .667.

Ohio State started off much stronger in the fourth set, opening up a 3-1 lead before serving deep to put Justine Wong-Orantes on the service line.

The teams traded points until Ohio State pushed the lead to four at 7-4 and forced a Nebraska timeout with the score 9-5 Buckeyes.

Little changed out of the timeout as the teams traded points, allowing Ohio State to maintain a comfortable lead of as many as six points, but the Huskers started to close the gap and Ohio State used their first timeout leading 14-10.

Ohio State kept the momentum out of the timeout, eventually taking a 19-12 lead and forcing the second Nebraska timeout of the set.

Ohio State extended the lead to as much as nine before closing out the set 25-17.

Through the fourth set, Coach Cook used quite a few substitutions trying to find something that would work, and nothing seemed to. As Devaney slowly emptied out with Husker fans going home to watch the football game, the team lacked energy, and Ohio State played a much cleaner set.

The Huskers hit .179 for the set, but Ohio State hit .343 to control the pace.

Ohio State won the toss for the third set and picked side, staying on the side where all the set wins had come from. They opened up a quick 3-0 lead in the set to 15, forcing the first timeout of the third for Coach Cook.

The Huskers took advantage of attack errors by the Buckeyes to tie it at four and take some momentum back from the visitors, forcing an Ohio State timeout.

The Huskers kept the momentum out of the timeout and had the 8-5 advantage when the teams switched sides (always at eight in the deciding set).

You had to see the point at 9-6 to believe it. Hustle and heart by both teams, but an amazing set by Pollmiller gave the Huskers the edge as Ohio State couldn’t handle the ball and tapped it outside the antenna. The Buckeyes used their second timeout of the set with the score 10-6 Huskers.

Ohio State fought back to within one out of the timeout until a Meghan Haggerty kill on the slide attack made the score 11-9 Huskers.

Meghan Haggerty won a huge joust at the net to open the lead back up to three, 13-10.

I don’t like to criticize the officials, but what was, at best, a questionable call gave Ohio State a point and Coach Cook used his second timeout with the score 13-11 Big Red.

The call was four touches. From all angles in the arena, it appeared to be simultaneous touch between the Rolfzens, which counts as one according to the rule book, but the officials get final say, and it was a sideout in Ohio State’s favor.

A hitting error by Ohio State gave Nebraska their first match point with the score 14-11 Big Red. However, it all fell apart there, with the Buckeyes running off five straight points to win 16-14 and take the match 3-2.

Both teams had abysmal hitting numbers for the fifth, with Nebraska outhitting Ohio State .086 to .065. However, Ohio State had 16 digs to Nebraska’s 11. As John Baylor pointed out on the postgame, that’s five more balls that Ohio State kept off the floor, and it’s easy to see the difference in score. For the match, Ohio State had 14 more digs than the Huskers.

Kadie Rolfzen led all Husker hitters with a .309 percentage and 20 kills. Kelsey Fien had nine kills and Cecilia Hall had eight.

For the match, Ohio State outhit Nebraska .232-.197 and had 18 more kills. That’s 18 more points generated by the offense, and with 14 more digs, the stats would suggest that Ohio State dominated the match. However, the Huskers outblocked the Buckeyes by a longshot, by a margin of 18-11.

Frankly, missed serves by Ohio State kept Nebraska in the match and nearly doomed the Buckeyes. Ohio State missed 12 serves, but only two of those misses came in the last two sets. The Huskers serving got worse as the night wore on.

As I mentioned earlier on the game thread, this match tells us more about the Huskers than the Penn State match did. This match is a more accurate representation of the team I’ve seen this year. To lose the deciding set 16-14 when leading 14-11 shows a lack of leadership and ability to finish, and that won’t get it done in the B1G, the toughest conference in the country.

This team may not ever show consistency in play if there’s no consistency in line-up. Cecilia Hall outplayed Melanie Keil by a longshot Friday night, but wasn’t a starter on Saturday. Opposite Kadie Rolfzen we have… well… we have either Alicia Ostrander or Kelsey Fien. Both are great players, but in a sport like volleyball, it’s so important to have consistency in regards to the person next to you. In a night where players could have learned to fight through adversity, it seemed that Coach Cook was too quick to sub out a player who made a mistake.

Early season adversity can be great when it comes to the end of the season, meaning a team knows how to get it done when it’s really important. However, when the chips are down right now, this team is not able to close. The Penn State match gave us great cause for hope, but this match gave a dose of realism.