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Husker Volleyball Sweeps Wolverines to Avenge Loss in Ann Arbor

On Saturday night, the Husker Volleyball Team gave Husker Nation reason to smile, sweeping the Michigan Wolverines at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.

David McGee

On Senior Night, honoring the #11 Huskers lone senior, Mary Pollmiller, the Husker Volleyball team sought revenge on the Michigan Wolverines, after the Wolverines swept the Huskers on October 12 in Ann Arbor. The Huskers swept the Wolverines 25-23, 25-20, 25-21.

Michigan opened up a quick 2-0 lead on the home team and held the margin for awhile with kills by Abby Cole, who went off against the Huskers in Ann Arbor for 19. Miscommunications and just plain mistakes by the Huskers allowed Michigan to open up a 9-5 lead before a sideout by Hall put Mary Pollmiller on the service line for the second time.

A Cecilia Hall/Amber Rolfzen block allowed the Huskers to hold on to serve for the first time in the set. Kills by Kelsey Fien, Cecilia Hall, and Kadie Rolfzen brought the set back to a tie at nine-all.

Michigan took control again and forced a Husker timeout with the score 13-10 Wolverines.

Out of the timeout, Michigan once again opened up a four-point lead before an error at the net gave the sideout and point to the Huskers and server Sydney Townsend. The Husker run was short lived, however, and Michigan took a four-point lead once again.

A Kelsey Fien hitting error extended the Wolverine lead to 20-15, but a service error gave the ball back to Nebraska. A kill by Kadie Rolfzen forced Michigan’s first timeout of the set with the score 21-18 Wolverines.

The Huskers kept the pressure on and the run alive out of the timeout, notching two more points before giving up the serve with the score 22-20 Michigan. The Huskers quickly sided out again, and then a Michigan hitting error tied the score for only the second time in the set, 22-all.

Amber Rolfzen buried a kill off the block out of the timeout to take the first Husker lead of the set at 23-22, but a quick blocking error tied the score. A tip wide by Michigan, however, gave the Huskers the first set point, 24-23. Kadie Rolfzen tipped a ball to the middle of the Michigan defense to win the set 25-23.

The stats for the first set were nearly dead even. The Huskers and Wolverines both hit .190 for the set and each team had an ace. The Wolverines had one more dig than the Huskers, but offset that with two service errors to none for Nebraska.

Kadie Rolfzen led the way for the Husker hitters with seven kills on seventeen attempts to hit .412. Cecilia Hall added three kills on four attempts to hit .750. Kelsey Fien hit .200 with four kills.

Mary Pollmiller started the second set off with the dump attack that she does so well. The teams stayed close early in the set, with both teams holding leads of just a point before the Huskers took advantage of an errant pass by the Wolverines to take a 5-3 lead.

Nebraska opened the lead to 8-5 before a Michigan run tied the score at eight. After briefly trading points, the Huskers began to take control, opening the lead to 15-10 at the media timeout.

The Huskers maintained and then extended the advantage out of the timeout, and Michigan Head Coach used his first timeout of the set trailing 17-11.

Michigan began to close the gap, so Coach Cook took his first timeout of the second with the score 18-14 Huskers. Michigan kept the run alive out of the timeout, scoring two more points to cut the lead to 18-16 Nebraska before the Huskers earned the sideout and stopped the run.

Michigan got the ball and the momentum back and closed to within one at 20-19 before a scorching shot by Fien brought the volume up in Devaney and gave the Huskers the point.

The teams traded points, including a long rally, and the Huskers held a 22-20 lead when Michigan used their second and final timeout of the second set. Annika Albrecht used the tape to perfection out of the timeout, recording an ace on the let serve. An Amber Rolfzen kill gave the Huskers set point, and then a Hall/Amber Rolfzen block gave the Huskers the 25-20 set win.

Through two sets, the Huskers were hitting .211 to Michigan’s .173. Kadie Rolfzen continued to lead the Huskers with nine kills hitting .259. Kelsey Fien also had added six kills and was hitting .286.

The Wolverines were outdigging the Huskers through two sets 33-30, but otherwise, the Huskers were leading in every category.

After giving up the first point of the set, the Huskers ran off five straight to force an Early Michigan timeout down 5-1. The Huskers maintained and extended the lead to as much as six, and never really let Michigan back in the set.

Michigan closed the lead to four on a few different occasions, but the lead was again six, at 20-14, when Michigan used their second and final timeout of the third set.

Michigan began to fight back late in the third. With the Huskers leading 23-16, Annika Albrecht missed her serve wide, and Michigan capitalized by putting together a three point run, and forcing a Nebraska timeout with the Huskers ahead 23-19.

Michigan made it interesting, but the Huskers finished off the sweep 25-21.

The Huskers hit .387 as a team in the third set, which allowed them to hit .262 for the match with 40 kills on 107 attempts with only 12 errors. Michigan hit .174 for the match with 45 kills on 121 attempts and 24 errors.

Kelsey Fien and Kadie Rolfzen both had great days offensively, with Fien hitting .364 with 11 kills and Rolfzen hit .250 with 13 kills in the sweep. Wong-Orantes had 13 of the Huskers’ 41 digs.

The Husker had 30 assisted blocks for the night. There were no solo blocks recorded by Husker blockers, but both Cecilia Hall, with 13, and Amber Rolfzen, with 12 were in double digits on Saturday night. Those are remarkable numbers for a single match, and a key part of the Husker win. The only other two Huskers recording blocks were Kadie Rolfzen with three, and Kira Larson with two.

The Huskers are carrying an eight match win streak into matches on the road this week with #10 Illinois and #4 Penn State. The Huskers have had a relatively easy run of matches lately, having played Maryland twice, Indiana twice, and Maryland since the loss at Wisconsin on October 26th. The sweep of Purdue during the streak is notable and cause for hope and optimism in Husker Nation, but two strong teams to close out the season is dangerous.

There are still concerns as we face the last week, and then post-season play. While the aforementioned blocking numbers for the Huskers were phenomenal on Saturday night, there were still a few times where blocks weren’t in the right spot and left the defenders on their own. Illinois and Penn State have hitters who will take advantage of that.

It should also be noted that at this point in the season, we should be expecting more consistency in the line-up. Meghan Haggerty and Kira Larson both saw time at middle against Michigan, and neither played particularly well. Haggerty was hitting -1.000 when she was taken out in the first set, and Kira Larson had one kill and one error on three attempts after being inserted for Haggerty, but was taken out in favor of Haggerty in the third. Haggerty hit -.667 for the match. We will have to see consistent, strong play out of our middles to have success going forward.

When we lost to Illinois on October 18th in Lincoln, Alicia Ostrander had significant time, and hit .302. Kelsey Fien didn’t even see the court, but was inserted in the next match against Minnesota and has played phenomenally since then. She’ll be an unknown against Illinois, and should be a difference maker.

The fact that we beat Penn State is irrelevant. Penn State Freshman Haleigh Washington did not play in Lincoln on October 3rd, but has lit the world on fire since first being inserted into the Nittany Lions’ line up. This Nittany Lions team will look very different, and will play very different, in State College than they did in Lincoln.

GBR