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Nebraska Starts Slowly but Shifts into High Gear to Soundly Beat Purdue

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#9 Nebraska beats #7 Purdue in four sets in front of an electric Husker crowd

Jordan Opp

Nebraska 3 vs Purdue 1 - 23-25, 25-18, 25-15, 25-21

As predicted, Purdue came in hot. Their players were firing away and Nebraska could do little to stop the Purdue attack. The Boilermakers hit a fantastic .429 in the first set, with 16 kills. But the Huskers absorbed the body blow, and towards the end of set one, down by a lot, Kenzie Knuckles served the Huskers to a seven point run, shifting the momentum.

It was clear from watching that the Nebraska squad started, finally, to put the game plan into action and figure out how to slow the Boilermaker roll. And while they lost the first set, the Huskers never looked back.

Take a look at Purdue hitting
Set 1: .429
Set 2: .000
Set 3: -.061
Set 4: .121.
This is the stat that changed the course of the match. There are many other components that led Nebraska to the win but stopping, blocking, digging and putting pressure on the Boilermaker hitters was the difference in the win and a possible loss.

Nebraska coaching staff and players made the game plan, “trusted their training” (as Coach Cook often says) and got better as the match progressed. Learning and adjusting as the match moves forward is a skill. A great skill.

Kayla Caffey hit a career high 14 kills for a .619 hitting percentage and added two blocks to her performance. While these stats are impressive, they still don’t capture the unstoppable offensive threat she was against Purdue.

She hung in the air for minutes (it seemed), calling to Nicklin Hames to set her the ball. She hit angles on the court that geometry teachers are still studying today. Her vertical jump seemed only possible with a spring board but somehow Caffey kept jumping higher. Unbelievable stats but an even more impressive performance to watch with our eyes.

The Lauren Stivrins slide was as beautiful as ever. She hit the match ending shot along with 13 more through the games to give her 14 on the night with a .393 hitting percentage. She made five blocks and three of them were along side right side hitter Lindsay Krause.

Krause had three blocks and 13 kills. When you see the Stivrins/Krause block well formed in front of you, well, it is a lot of arms and hands in your face and you might consider not hitting into it.

When there is a good block the defense behind it gets better too. Those four hands and arms take away a whole section of the court. The hitter can’t get the ball there so the defender moves around to the outside of the block to the spaces left for a hitter. Defenders watch the hitters shoulders and hand to “read” where she is going to hit the ball.

Lexi Rodriguez is particularly good at reading hitters. She used all that talent to make 24 digs last night. That is 6 per set which is 2 more per set than she was averaging. I say she rose to the occasion well!

The left side hitters were a mixed bag against Purdue. Madi Kubik and Ally Batenhorst started the match. Kubik earned kills in the front and back row. She was an outlet set for Hames. Kubik ended with 15 kills but also had 9 errors. Batenhorst ended with 0 kills and 4 errors on the night. Lexi Sun played the majority of the second, third and fourth sets. She ended with 4 kills and 4 errors.

Statistics are not the only measure of success. Batenhorst and Sun are individually doing things that help the team win, but they also must produce kills. The stats above are not the performances that either player wants. They are not what the coaching staff is asking of her. Batenhorst and Sun need to terminate the ball.

This continues to be a position that needs improvement, but clearly did not hold the team back from excellent play against #7 Purdue. The coaching staff will work this through the rest of the season. Both players will be available and options as the competition comes.

The depth chart helps this problem. Think of Batenhorst, Sun, Kubik, Krause and Whitney Lauenstein as their own rotation of strengths, weaknesses and possibilities. Each practice Coach rotates them through drills and game scenarios where they can improve and learn from each other. Coach has options, and the players working hard to earn court time pushes each one forward.

Nebraska will flip in the rankings with Purdue to make the Huskers the #7 team in the country. If OSU loses to Minnesota today (Sunday Oct 24 at 4 pm CT on ESPN), Nebraska will take over Ohio States position as #6. Either way, there is a top ten match up in Devaney on Wednesday. Wisconsin comes to town after beating OSU in four sets and PSU in five this weekend.

Wednesday, October 27th, first serve is set for 8 pm on Big Ten Network. John Baylor and Lauren Cook West will have the radio call on Huskers Radio Network.