The #4 Husker Volleyball team traveled to State College, Pennsylvania and Columbus, Ohio over the weekend to take on two Top-25 teams. Nebraska knocked off the #1-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions on Friday night, but fell Saturday night to the #13 Ohio State Buckeyes, both in five sets.
On Friday night, Penn State came out strong, taking the first set 25-12. However, the Huskers forced extra volleyball while falling 24-26 in the second. The Huskers finished the match off 25-14, 25-20, 15-11.
The Huskers slightly outhit the Lions .173-.164. Nebraska recorded 60 kills through the five sets, led by Mikaela Foecke's 22. Kadie Rolfzen had 11 kills, and Amber Rolfzen had 10.
Justine Wong-Orantes had 30 digs of the Huskers' 84 for the night. Kadie Rolfzen had 15 digs to record a double-double for the night. The Nittany Lions had 15 blocks to 14 for the Huskers.
Last year, the Huskers knocked off Penn State in Lincoln early in the season. When the teams met again later that year, the Huskers fell to the Nittany Lions in State College. Winning the match on the road against the #1 team in the country bodes well for the #4 Huskers and their quest to make the Final Four in Omaha.
As the night went along, a lot of attention was paid by the announcers to the struggles of Penn State setter Bryanna Weiskircher, a redshirt freshman. She sat behind All-American Micha Hancock for a year, and it was noted that she seemed to struggle a bit on this stage.
However, Nebraska setter Kelly Hunter, a sophomore, spent two years behind Mary Pollmiller, and seemed to control herself and the match better as the night went along. This has been a theme of the season, however, as there has been no apparent drop off from the experienced Pollmiller to the relatively inexperienced Hunter.
On Saturday night, the Huskers had another long night, falling on the night to the #13 Ohio State Buckeyes 25-22, 18-25, 22-25, 25-17, 15-10.
Nebraska was outhit .191-.247 by the Buckeyes. Mikaela Foecke, who's been a great surprise at outside hitter struggled mightily on the night, recording four kills with five errors on 23 attempts. She was replaced by Alicia Ostrander, who had six kills on 15 attempts.
Four Huskers had double-digit kills for the night, Kelsey Fien (12), Cecilia Hall (12), Kadie Rolfzen (11), and Amber Rolfzen (10).
Ohio State's defense was the deciding factor in the match. The Buckeyes recorded 79 digs to just 63 for the Huskers. Those digs kept the Huskers to only 59 kills while the Buckeyes had 70. Annika Albrecht led the way for the Huskers with 17 kills.
Playing Top 25 teams on back to back nights is one of the most difficult things about the B1G Conference in volleyball. It's made even more difficult on the road. Of course some will say the the Huskers let down Saturday night after being very highly emotionally on Friday. That likely played a role, but Ohio State rose the challenge and earned the win.
Through the weekend, the Huskers minimized errors, averaging less than two service errors per set, which is a low number, and having double-digit blocks on both nights. In fact, the Huskers far outblocked Ohio State, 14-5.
A lot of pieces are still in place. As Foecke, a freshman, gains more experience, it's less likely that she'll have nights like she did Saturday. The Huskers knocked off a very good, and undefeated, team in Penn State. That experience should pay dividends in late November and December.