On Friday night, the Bob Devaney Sports Center hosted two matches in the first round of the NCAA Volleyball Tournament. In the first match, the TCU Horned Frogs knocked off the Wichita State Shockers 3-1 (25-17, 25-23, 22-25, 25-20). The second match pitted the Nebraska Cornhuskers against the New Hampshire Wildcats for the right to take on TCU in the second round. The Huskers made it a short night, 3-0 (25-9, 25-23, 25-18).
The Huskers started strong, taking a 2-0 lead on an Amber Rolfzen block followed by an Annika Albrecht kill out of the back row. On the third point, Kelly Hunter set Kadie Rolfzen out of the back row, an attack that didn’t find the floor, but showed the Huskers were opening up the offense at almost all positions.
Though the score was kept close, at 3-2, early, Nebraska pulled away with Kelly Hunter on serve, going on a 6-0 run to make the score 9-2 Big Red and force the first Wildcat timeout.
New Hampshire hit the ball out of bounds out of the timeout, but then used an off-speed attack to tool the Nebraska block and end the run at 7-0, making the score 10-3 Huskers.
New Hampshire didn’t have an answer for the Husker attack, or the Husker block, or really anything the Huskers did. Keeping in mind that Husker DS Annika Albrecht, at 6’0”, was taller than all but one of the Wildcat starters, the 17-4 lead at the second New Hampshire timeout wasn’t a huge surprise.
New Hampshire took three of five out of the timeout to close to 19-7, but with Kadie Rolfzen on the line, the Huskers ran off four straight to make the score 23-7 before New Hampshire ran off two to make it 23-9 Huskers. Amber Rolfzen buried a New Hampshire overpass to put Albrecht on the service line with set point. 24-9. Mikaela Foecke got the kill to end the set 25-9.
The Huskers hit .485 in the first set to .062 for the Wildcats. Nebraska was led by five kills from Kadie Rolfzen who hit .333. Mikaela Foecke added four kills and hit .571.
The Wildcats took their first lead of the night on the first point of the second set, going up 1-0 when a Briana Holman swing caught the net and fell out of bounds.
The teams actually traded points for a short period until New Hampshire opened up a two-point lead at 5-3.
New Hampshire held the advantage until an uncontested Holman attack found the middle of the New Hampshire defense and tied the score at seven. The Huskers then won a long rally to take their first lead of the set on a Kadie Rolfzen kill.
The Husker advantage was short-lived this time, as the Wildcats dribbled a serve over for an ace to re-take the lead, 10-9. The Huskers answered back with two in a row to take the 11-10 lead.
Nebraska held the advantage for awhile, leading 15-14 at the media timeout.
New Hampshire took the first three points out of the media timeout to take a 17-15 lead before Kadie Rolfzen slammed an attack home to put Mikaela Foecke on the service line.
The Huskers tied it at 17, but couldn’t take the lead again until 20-19 which led to the Wildcats using their first timeout of the set.
UNH tied the score at 20 out of the timeout, but the Huskers sided out right away to go up 21-20. Foecke then hit a ball hard to middle back to take the 22-20 lead for Nebraska.
New Hampshire wasn’t done with the Huskers yet, though. UNH tied the score at 22, which forced Nebraska to use their first timeout of the set.
Nebraska scored two points out of the timeout which put Nebraska on set point and forced the second New Hampshire timeout of the set. The Huskers led 24-22.
Sydney Townsend missed her serve out of the timeout to give the Wildcats life, but Foecke earned the next point and the set for the Huskers, 25-23.
The Huskers hit .342 in the second set, just slightly ahead of the .333 tallied by the Wildcats. Kadie Rolfzen was still leading all Huskers with eleven kills, hitting .471. Mikaela Foecke was hitting .350 with nine kills.
The Huskers defense was not as effective in the second set, with no blocks for the Huskers, and a lot of balls from New Hampshire finding the floor. The Husker offense had trouble connecting hitters with setter Kelly Hunter as well.
Kadie Rolfzen and Briana Holman started off the third set on a better note, blocking New Hampshire to take the 1-0 lead.
The set started with the teams trading sideouts. Though the Huskers scored first, they couldn’t shake the Wildcats early and allowed New Hampshire to take the lead 5-4.
The Huskers answered back immediately, however, and took the lead back and extended it to three points at 8-5.
Though UNH closed to within one at 10-9, the Huskers opened the lead up again quickly, taking a 13-9 advantage on Foecke’s serve. New Hampshire closed again to within two points, but the Huskers held a 15-12 lead at the media timeout.
A Kadie Rolfzen ace out of the timeout followed by a Hunter dump on the next point gave the Huskers a five point lead, 17-12. Andie Malloy kept the momentum on the Huskers’ side with a kill down the line to give the Huskers a six-point lead, 18-12. The 4-0 Husker run resulted in a Wildcat timeout.
New Hampshire went on a run of their own out of the timeout, closing the score to 18-15 before Malloy recorded another kill to give the Huskers the point.
Nebraska opened the advantage back up to 21-16 when the Wildcats used their second, and final, timeout of the set.
Exchanging sideouts worked in Nebraska’s favor, as the Huskers held a 23-18 lead before scoring the last two to take the set 25-18 and the match 3-0.
The Huskers hit .352 for the match to .175 for the Wildcats. Mikaela Foecke led the Huskers with 13 kills and hit .407. Kadie Rolfzen was the only other Nebraska attacker with double-digit kills, recording 12 on the night and hitting .360. Holman hit .545 with seven kills.
The Huskers outdug the Wildcats by a long shot, with 51 digs against 39 for UNH. Libero Justine Wong-Orantes had 14 for the Huskers and Kenzie Maloney had eight. Nebraska had six blocks to two for New Hampshire, led by three block assists and one solo block by Amber Rolfzen.
The Husker defense looked much better in the third, though the offense looked tight in the second and third sets. Early in the first we saw swings coming from five positions, essentially, with swings coming from Kadie Rolfzen and Albrecht in the back row early, but we didn’t see that offense again.
Despite that, the Husker offense was well-balanced on the night, a goal that Setter Kelly Hunter mentioned is something the team’s always aware of. Getting consistent attacks from at least three of their five hitters will be critical to this team repeating with a national championship. Many matches this season the Huskers have seen either the middles or the outsides being successful. They need production from all positions at the same time.
Nebraska plays the TCU Horned Frogs Saturday night at the Bob Devaney Sports Center at 7:00 PM Central in the second round. The match will be carried in Nebraska on NET.