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Nebraska Volleyball Falls To Minnesota In Four Sets

In a battle to see who would remain on top of the Big Ten volleyball standings, the Minnesota Golden Gophers came out ahead.

Set 1 started as an evenly matched affair with the Huskers and Gophers trading points.

Minnesota was able to finally break out to a 3 point lead at 9-6 after getting the Huskers out of system a few times. They were also great at getting the Huskers pulled up into the front court leaving few defenders in the back.

The Husker block was not effective and the defense behind them was not doing a good job covering the holes (those two things are usually related).

A heads-up dump by Kelly Hunter (on a pass that was incredibly tight to the net) tied it up at 13. Both teams were hitting really effectively (both over .400). The first long rally did not occur until 17-16 (Minnesota leading). The Gophers won it to push their lead to two. They went back and forth until Minnesota closed out the first set 25-23.

I am not going to report blocks because I am not sure the live stats I saw were correct. The Huskers outhit the Gophers .421 to .364. They were outdug 15-17 by Minnesota. The Gophers recorded one ace and 21 kills to the Huskers 1 service error and 18 kills. Suffice it to say there was lots of offense all around

The second set started with Minnesota just as hot as they ended the first. They jumped out to a 3-1 lead. The Husker defense started to come alive, but the Huskers were not always in system. The improvisation seemed to fire up the Huskers and a Foecke joust at the net gave the Huskers a 5-4 lead. The Gophers roared back to outplay the Huskers to the tune of a five point lead (14-9). The Huskers rallied to take an 18-17 lead behind a kill by Fien.

The crowd began to regain some energy at this point, but a a ball-handling error by Kelly Hunter tied the game 18-18, the Gophers' best player moved back to the front row. and Minnesota won the second set 25-22.

Justine Wong-Orantes was not having a good night digging, but it seemed like a fast and aggressive Gopher attack was throwing the entire Husker defense for a loop.

The Minnesota offense overtook the Huskers with Minnesota hitting .305 and Nebraska .300. Both teams recorded 36 kills and the Huskers were outdigging the Gophers 43-39. This match was incredibly close with the intensity of Daly Santana (Gopher outside hitter) being the biggest difference.

During the intermission, the 1995 National Championship volleyball team was honored. They represented the first of three national championships.

The Gophers opened set 3 with two quick points. The Huskers continued to have a difficult time handling Santana as she scored 2 or the first 3 points by the Gophers. The Huskers fought back and took a 5-4 lead which was given up quickly on a service error by the Huskers. Minnesota then scored often and quickly to take a 10-8 lead. There were very few significant rallies in this match as both teams were scoring quickly. Unfortunately, Minnesota was doing it more than Nebraska.

The Gophers extended their lead to 15-10 on a service ace that dropped more quickly than Wong-Orantes anticipated. At the media timeout, the Huskers had committed 12 attack errors in the match to the Gophers' 9. The Husker attack % had dropped to .283 while Minnesota's was rising and reached .321.

The Husker digging continued to be lackluster and the blocks just could not stop the Gopher attack. Minnesota quickly extended their lead to 18-12. The Huskers were quickly running out of opportunities to pull this match together.

Then a funny thing happened on the way to the sweep. The Huskers blocked Santana. They blocked again and Minnesota took a timeout with the lead cut to three. The timeout worked as the Gophers scored the next two and Coach Cook called a timeout.

It was a real treat to listen to Coach Terry Pettit talk about past Husker teams and to analyze the match and explain reasons for the Husker meltdown (the quick attack forcing the Huskers to use very specific mechanics with which they were not comfortable). He was also seeing the Huskers adjust and commented that he felt the Huskers could win the match if they could come back to avoid the sweep in set three.

Nebraska pulled within 2 (20-18) and forced a Minny timeout. The Huskers were within 5 points of losing first place in the Big Ten. Gut check time.

Unfortunately they gave up a quick point but then went on a mini run. Improvisation and blocking pulled them ahead 22-21. A quick Minny point tied it back up 22-22. A crazy improvisation by Foecke pulled the Huskers back up 23-22. Minnesota tied it 23-23 with, yet another, knack for finding the hole in the defense. A kill by Foecke (Amber Rolfzen froze the blockers) gave the Huskers their first set point. Minny tied it 24-24. Amber Rolfzen found the floor - Huskers up 25-24. Then a crazy rally gave the Huskers set three.

The Husker attack % has risen to .315 while Minnesota's dropped to .275. For the first time in the entire match, Minnesota's attack errors outnumbered the Huskers 15-13. Both teams had committed four service errors to this point in the match. The Huskers had 55 digs to the Gophers' 51.  CeCe Hall was the leading blocker (6), Wong-Orantes and K. Rolfzen were leading diggers (15), and Kelsey Fien led in kills (13).

In set four, Minnesota jumped out to a 5-1 lead and the rallies were getting longer. It felt like long rallies should have favored the Huskers after being so off-balance by the quick Minnesota attack, but that was not the case. Cook called a timeout. It worked as the Huskers scored on a Fien kill, an Albrecht ace (the first of the match for the Huskers), and a Gopher overdig. The Gophers broke the run and led 6-4. The teams traded points until the Huskers tied it up at 7. Two wide swings by the Huskers gave Minny back a two-point lead (9-7). After some back and forth, Minnesota opened the lead a bit with some great blocking and were up 14-10. The Huskers rallied (again) behind some great blocking, great serving, and more great blocking to close within two (16-14). The Minnesota coach challenged a play (it was not close and he was likely just using it as a substitute for a timeout).

It worked as the crowd got quiet and the Huskers got cold. Minny won the following two points and led 18-14.  Coach Cook called a timeout.

Albrecht scored on the back row attack to close within three (18-15). Minny got three right back and the Huskers were again running out of chances (21-15). Nebraska stopped the bleeding and scored four to pull within 21-19. Minnesota timeout.

The timeout did not work as Nebraska stuffed the Gophers to pull within one. On the next play it looked like the Huskers tied it but were called in the net (Minny lead 22-20). The teams traded points and the score was 23-21. A K Rolfzen kill brought the Huskers within one 23-22 but a Minny kill put it at match point 24-22.

A Foecke kill brought the Husker within one 24-23. Minny timeout.

An angry-swinging Foecke tied it up 24-24 and then a Husker block pulled them ahead 25-24.

Set point Huskers.

An out-of-system play brought the Gophers back to a tie and then an overdig gave them match point #3.

The Gophers finished it 27-25.

This was an incredibly close match. The stats bear this out as the Huskers hit for .253 to Minnesota's .240. Minnesota had 71 kills to the Huskers' 67. Nebraska had five service errors and one service ace while Minnesota recorded four service errors and two aces.

Kelsey Fien led with 19 kills and hit a team-high .386.