Two things you need to know about volleyball: it is a game of momentum and coaching can make a difference. Nebraska cruised in sets one and two until Coach McCutcheon made an offensive shift and the match momentum changed.
Nebraska had many pieces of their game working well tonight. I think the star of the show was defense. The momentum was theirs in game one because the ball rarely hit the floor. Madi Kubik, Kenzie Knuckles and Megan Miller had consistent fabulous digs that gave hitters second and third swings. I like NUs chances when they have multiple swings.
The second piece of the match that made a difference for Nebraska was serving. Yes, yes they missed double digit serves but they caused a lot of trouble for Minnesota. Miller stands out in the is category again. Her serve was vicious early in the season. In the last eight matches she only had one ace. Tonight she had five!
Even when players weren’t getting aces, Husker serves forced the Gophers to set options, become predictable and even make poor sets. That was the first two sets...
In set three, MN started passing well and changed from a 6 hitter- 2 setter offense to a 5 hitter-1 setter offense. The 5-1 offense is what Nebraska runs. The passing and setter change for MN created a faster offense that flowed very well. MN made volleyball look pretty (I know it was painful for you Husker fans).
The momentum of set three carried to set four and Minnesota looked like a well oiled machine. They damaged floor boards they hit the ball so hard. Alexis Hart for MN swung away and Regan Pittman unleashed every chance she had.
Set five began like a heavy weight match. Both teams began throwing punches. Which team would win was anyone’s guess. After the number of punches NU took in set four, it took guts to come out and serve the way Knuckles and Megan Miller served, swing like Kubik did and the whole team to be aggressive.
It also takes drills and simulation in practice through the season. Coaches do everything they can in practice to make “game like” scenarios. I can remember our coaching staff working to make it more real; noise, pressure, what else can we do to make this feel like game five and the conference championship is on the line?
Nebraska wins in five sets. It was good, it was bad and some of it was lucky.
25-22, 25-18, 19-25, 11-25, 15-3
Huskers have a day to travel and recover for their next match. This is the match that will determine the Big Ten champion. Nebraska plays #5 Wisconsin on Sunday at 1:30 on BTN.
In other news:
#12 Creighton defeats #9 Marquette 3-1.
#4 Stanford defeats #16 Utah 3-1