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Women’s Basketball and Volleyball Preview and Game Thread

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Scott Bruhn

#11 Nebraska (21-6, B1G 15-3) vs #5 Wisconsin (23-3, B1G 15-3)
When: Friday, November 26, 2021, 4:30 pm (CT)
Where: Madison, WI
Video: BTN
Radio: Husker Sports Network - Lincoln (B107.3 FM); Omaha (AM 590); Huskers.com; Huskers App

That this match determines the conference champion is well established.

The winner of Friday’s Nebraska-Wisconsin match will earn at least a share of the Big Ten championship and the chance to capture the title outright with a victory the following night. Should the Badgers and Huskers split their two matches this weekend, Purdue can earn a share of the title by winning its final two matches at home.

Somewhere in the beginning of the season each team made a goal about the B1G conference title. That goal, specifically, may still mean something, but a win would mean more regarding the larger goal of a national championship; the result of this match will give the selection committee a good indication where to seed each team.

And more than any goal, each team just wants to BEAT the other. The competitive energy and desire to win radiates from the court when Nebraska and Wisconsin play.

Last weekend Wisconsin beat Michigan State (25-15, 25-17, 36-34, 25-17) and Minnesota (24-26, 25-19, 25-27, 28-26, 15-12). Dana Rettke had 21 kills and hit .372 in the five set match against Minnesota.

The match against Minnesota was impressive. Wisconsin won with a spread offense; Rettke’s 21 kills, Jade Demps 18 kills, Devyn Robinson 13 kills, Grace Loberg 14 kills and Julia Orzol 14 kills.

Do you see Anna Smrek on that list? No!

She did damage against Nebraska on October 27th but hasn’t played consistently since then. She comes in to block in some situations but does not play the offensive role we saw in the last meeting of these teams. She had 12 kills and hit .647 against Nebraska.

This match up is statistically very interesting as Nebraska holds teams to the lowest hitting percentage in the conference, at .148. Conversely, Wisconsin has the highest hitting percentage in the conference, at .290. Wisconsin beats opponents blocks by distributing the ball to five hitters fairly evenly.

Nebraska is 8th in the conference in hitting percentage at .223 but 4th in kills per set in the conference with 13.84. This means Nebraska makes too many hitting errors. They are close to Wisconsin when you just look at how many kills each team is earning, but when you add hitting errors to the equation for hitting percentage, they are not competitive.

Nebraska digs more balls per set than anyone in the conference. Huskers dig 17.18 balls per set compare to Wisconsin’s 14.97 digs per set. More digs means you increases the opportunity for your offense to convert and score. More digs also frustrates opponents’ hitters and can lead to them making errors as they try to hit different shots than they otherwise would.

Huskers need to make less hitting errors at the net, and less serving errors at the line.

Purdue has Wisconsin’s number this year beating them twice in four sets. The Boilermakers beat them with three facets of the game: blocking, defense and serving. Blocking and defense are staples in the Nebraska gym but this season serving has not been.

Nebraska needs to serve tough without many errors (no more than 2 per set) and they must serve areas on the court during different rotations to force the Badger offense into situations where Nebraska has the advantage.

When Rettke is in, she lines up on the ten foot line during serve receive. The serve needs to go into her area, force her to decide to pass it or not which disrupts her attack rhythm.

Each serve receive formation brings a new serving dynamic where Huskers must expose Badger weaknesses with tough serves that lead to predictable, blockable and diggable offense.

This is how Nebraska beats Wisconsin. GBR!

University of Nebraska (21-6, B1G 15-3)

#1 Nicklin Hames 5’10’’ SR Setter
#2 Kenzie Knuckles 5’8’’ JR DS
#3 Kayla Caffey 6’0’’ SR MB
#4 Anni Evans 5’9’’ SO Setter/Serving Specialist
#6 Keonilei Akana 5’9’’ SO DS
#7 Rylee Gray 6’4’’ FR MB
#8 Lexi Rodriguez 5’5’’ FR Libero
#9 Kennedi Orr 6’0’’ FR Setter
#10 Madi Kubik 6’3’’ JR OH
#11 Lexi Sun 6’2’’ SR OH
#13 Whitney Lauenstein 6’2’’ FR OH
#14 Ally Batenhorst 6’4’’ FR OH
#20 Kalynn Meyer 6’3’’ SO MB
#22 Lindsay Krause 6’4’’ FR OH
#25 Callie Schwarzenbach 6’5’’ SR MB
#26 Lauren Stivrins 6’4’’ SR MB

Wisconsin (23-3, B1G 15-3)

#1 Lauren Barnes 5’6’’ GR Libero
#2 Sydney Hilley 6’0’’ GR Setter
#5 Joslyn Boyer 5’6’’ JR DS
#7 Civita Giorgia 5’6’’ GR DS
#10 Devyn Robinson 6’2’’ SO MB
#11 Izzy Ashburn 5’11’’ JR serving specialist
#14 Anna Smrek 6’9’’ FR RS
#15 Jade Demps 6’2’’ SO MB
#16 Dana Rettke 6’8’’ GR MB
#21 Grace Loberg 6’0’’ GR OH
#22 Julia Orzol 6’0’’ FR OH

Saturday Nebraska travels to #6 Purdue (22-5, 14-4). Saturday at 8 p.m. CT match against the Boilermakers will be televised on BTN and streamed on the FOX Sports app.

Then Nebraska awaits its fate for the NCAA Tournament, which begins with the first and second rounds, Dec. 3-4, on campus sites. The complete 2021 tournament field will be unveiled during the NCAA Selection Show this Sunday, Nov. 28 at 7:30 p.m. CT on ESPNU.

Women’s Basketball
Nebraska (5-0) vs Drexel (3-1)
When: Friday, November 26, 2021, 6:00 pm (CT)
Where: San Diego, CA
Radio: Husker Sports Network