Wow. I have to give huge credit to the Husker ladies. They gave a VERY good Texas team all they could handle on Saturday afternoon at Devaney. In front of 8,312 fans the #9 Huskers pushed the #2 ranked Texas Longhorns to five sets, losing 2-3 (23-25, 25-21, 19-25, 25-23, 8-15).
Given the history and tradition of both teams, the hitting numbers for the match were less than impressive with the Longhorns outhitting the Huskers .189 - .165. Part of the reason for that can be seen in the digging numbers, where the Huskers led just slightly, 78 for Nebraska to 76 for Texas.
Kadie Rolfzen led the Huskers with 21 kills, hitting .294. She also had 16 digs to notch her second straight double-double. Alicia Ostrander added 14 kills and hit .157. Melanie Keil hit .417 with six kills and one error on twelve attempts.
Justine Wong-Orantes also had a big afternoon, recording 29 digs for the Big Red, showing she was not afraid of the stage, or the Longhorns’ size. She also added five assists on the day.
Blocking played a major role in the dogfight nature of the match, as well. The Huskers had 15 while Texas had 13. The Huskers’ total included solo blocks for both Mary Pollmiller and Meghan Haggerty.
I was not able to make it to the match as I was coaching MY Longhorns at a tournament in the thriving metropolis of Shickley, Nebraska. From what I’ve heard, however, the Huskers answered a lot of the questions that I had, and showed that they have what it takes to threaten during the B1G season.
All season, the Huskers have seemed to lack that killer instinct, that leadership, that Kelsey Robinson brought. I don’t know if we’ve seen Kadie Rolfzen step up to fill that role, or if the Huskers will do it by committee (See Wong-Orantes’s match), but the team played solid and kept the pressure on a very good Texas team through to the end.
The biggest question still remaining for the Huskers is who will be Kadie’s opposite? Both Kelsey Fien and Alicia Ostrander have had significant time out there, with a little bit of Annika Albrecht thrown in.
It’s also worth mentioning that this marks the first match in the post-Robo era where the Huskers had a significant contribution from quite a few players. In addition to that, Kadie Rolfzen looked like the player so many Husker fans have been hoping and expecting her to be.
This match also gave the Bob Devaney Sports Center a chance to shine. As the match ebbed and flowed, with every point, the Husker fans put on a display of their own, living up to every bit of the reputation they maintain: "The best home court advantage in college volleyball".
It is no secret there is no love lost between these two programs and the fans harbor those feelings perhaps deeper than the players themselves. With the patrons in full throat at every hint of success, real or imagined the team fed off the passion, answering every Texas rally, energizing a young Husker squad, clearly looking for momentum wherever they could find it.
Special thanks to Cornnation.com’s photographer extraordinaire, David McGee who was at the match getting pictures and able to contribute and give those of us who couldn’t be there an idea of what the Bob felt like on Saturday.