We again were curious who would step on the court to start for Nebraska volleyball. Lauren Stivrins and Callie Schwarzenbach started as MBs, Lexi Sun and Madi Kubik as OHs, Nicklin Hames as S, Riley Zuhn as RH, Kenzie Knuckles as L and Keonilei Akana as DS. We also saw Hayley Densberger come in to serve for Stivrins for part of the match.
Coach Cook said after the match that it was always the plan to split the playing time this weekend between Kayla Caffey and Schwarzenbach. It could also be Coach Cook wanting to show Indiana a different look. Then again, maybe the coaching staff is still determining which middle will start in the long run. Like any good show, this story line alone will keep us watching.
We did see Jazz Sweet in the third set, match point, as a sub for Hames. She was a blocking sub. It was only one play and the ball didn’t come near her but we can see Coach knows he has lots of options. Knuckles would act as the setter while Hames is out.
This Jazz substitution is an example part of a much bigger plan in the Nebraska season. The season is different, and the on-court strategy is different in many ways. Coach Cook seems to be developing strategy not only for the match but for the entire season. He probably does this every season but we get to see it more because he is figuring it out much more on the fly.
There are new variables to this season. Playing one team two nights in a row has challenges. There is the potential that one or two players are unavailable on any given weekend so many more bench players need to be ready. “We have to start working players in to get them comfortable. We have a lot of players that can help us so I want to get them in the match.” We are not going to see ONE starting line up this season. OK, back to tonight’s match analysis, but this season long strategy has me excited and intrigued!!
Blocking was fun to watch tonight and played a large roll in the victory. When Zuhn and Schwarzenbach form their blocking wall (6’5’’ and 6’5’’) or Stivrins and Zuhn (6’4’’ and 6’5’’) they change the game. Opposing hitters have to play differently by changing their shots. Defenders behind the block can be sure, nobody is hitting over the block.
Coach Cook gave credit to his staff for seeing the tendencies of Indiana hitters last night and creating a game plan for tonight for blocking. He said the players also took that game plan and executed effectively. These two pieces, game plan and execution, combined to make 12 blocks as a team tonight compare to five last night.
The backrow attack from Lexi Sun was smooth and effective. She is taking off from behind the ten foot line (the rule when she is in the backrow) but then landing five feet from the net. The set is leading her into the hit and she is broad jumping into the attack. It is a fast or low set so opposing blockers don’t have much time to react.
It stresses the opposing blockers because Nebraska’s middle is running behind for a slide while Nebraska’s OH is available on the far outside. This splits the blockers and leaves teh backrow attacker with a single block. This advantage goes to the hitter normally. Kubik had a couple attempts in the backrow tonight too. The backrow attack is a good addition to the Huskers offense!
Sun led Nebraska players with 11 kills but also had 6 errors so her hitting percentage was low at .179. Zuhn hit .316 with 8 kills and added 3 blocks. Stivrins had 7 kills and hit .429 with 6 blocks. Schwarzenbach had 4 kills and 6 blocks. Knuckles made 12 digs and the team had 43 digs total.
Coach said after the match that “I saw some mental errors that I haven’t seen in practice” and that this is something they will work on this week in practice.
Nebraska (2-0) heads home and will play again Friday January 29th at 6 pm in Devaney against Northwestern (2-0). Northwestern played Rutgers this weekend. They won Friday and Saturday night 3-0. You will recognize Northwestern’s libero. Megan Miller transferred from Nebraska after last season.
What a great first weekend of volleyball! I look forward to seeing the Devaney Center on the big screen next weekend. GBR!