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Volleyball: #9 Nebraska vs #7 Ohio State Preview and Game Thread

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Jordan Opp

#9 Nebraska (17-5, B1G 11-2) vs #7 Ohio State (18-5, B1G 8-5)
When: Saturday, November 6, 2021, 6:00 pm (CT)
Where: Columbus, OH
Video: BTN+
Radio: Husker Sports Network - Lincoln (B107.3 FM); Omaha (AM 590); Huskers.com; Huskers App

Truths: Ohio State is a really good team. Nebraska needs to play high level volleyball to beat the Buckeyes. Emily Londot, 6’3’’ Sophomore outside hitter, 2020 Big Ten Freshman of the Year and former U20 National Team standout will create kills.

However, it is also true that Ohio State is ranked pretty high for their record against key opponents. Evidence:

Key Ohio State Losses:
September 24th Purdue five sets
September 26th Penn State three sets
October 22nd Wisconsin four sets
October 24th Minnesota four sets
November 4th Minnesota four sets

Key Ohio State Wins:
August 28 Washington four sets
October 15 Purdue four sets

So, this Buckeye squad is probably overrated. Which, of course, doesn’t matter for the match. So then let’s talk about what does matter. Lexi Sun gets the start (my prediction, not based on any inside info) because of her recent performance against Illinois. She also gets the start because she is an excellent blocker, and Londot gets 30% of the OSU sets on the right side. Problem, meet solution.

OSUs outside hitters are tall, and are good blockers. Mia Grunze and Gabby Gonzales both stand 6’3’’ and push their hands over the net well on Nebraska right side pin. This means Lindsay Krause, and Lauren Stivrins on the slide, need to see hands and hit off and around them. Gonzales gets another 30% of OSU sets. Against Minnesota he percentage was above 50%.

The Buckeyes are an aggressive serving team. They have 1.18 aces per set as a team and 2.22 services errors per set. Nebraska can’t directly control how many errors they make on serve but they sure can control how many aces they earn. If the Huskers are passing serve so well that Nicklin Hames can set all her options, the Buckeyes will likely try to serve tougher and this increases their chance of error.

Similar to Nebraska, Ohio State digs a lot of balls up in the back court. Their libero, Kylie Murr, goes after everything and this mentally transfers to other players. During OSUs most recent match against Minnesota (OSU lost in 4 - 25-22, 21-25, 21-25, 21-25) both teams had 81 digs. 20 digs per set is a huge number. For reference, Nebraska averages 16.67 and in their most recent match against Illinois had 52 in three sets to average 17.33 per set.

When you play a team that has as much defense as OSU, patience is key. Patience means that, for instance, Madi Kubik, won’t always get a kill on her first swing of the rally. She must trust that her defense will dig the next ball and she will get another swing to terminate. Patience means taking up space as a blocker and not reaching so far to commit a net violation.

OSU plays loose as a team. They laugh a lot on the court. This means they are not likely to get down. They will play the whole match through, and believe they can win until the final point. Nebraska needs to keep their focus until the end, regardless of what’s on the scoreboard. Sounds easy enough, but execution is harder.

Let’s beat an Ohio State team today. GBR!

University of Nebraska (17-5, B1G 11-2)

#1 Nicklin Hames 5’10’’ SR Setter - 3.27 digs per set, .35 aces per set
#2 Kenzie Knuckles 5’8’’ JR DS - 1.99 digs per set, .965 reception %, .29 aces per set
#3 Kayla Caffey 6’0’’ SR MB - 2.43 kills per set, 1.14 blocks per set
#4 Anni Evans 5’9’’ SO Setter/Serving Specialist - .70 digs per set
#6 Keonilei Akana 5’9’’ SO DS - 2.26 digs per set, .940 reception %, .29 aces per set
#7 Rylee Gray 6’4’’ FR MB
#8 Lexi Rodriguez 5’5’’ FR Libero - 4.28 digs per set, .960 reception
#9 Kennedi Orr 6’0’’ FR Setter
#10 Madi Kubik 6’3’’ JR OH - 3.35 kills per set, .47 blocks per set, .955 reception %
#11 Lexi Sun 6’2’’ SR OH- 2.25 kills per set, .48 blocks per set, .951 reception %
#13 Whitney Lauenstein 6’2’’ FR OH - .78 kills per set, .25 blocks per set
#14 Ally Batenhorst 6’4’’ FR OH - 1.81 kills per set, .29 blocks per set, .938 reception %
#20 Kalynn Meyer 6’3’’ SO MB -1.14 blocks per set
#22 Lindsay Krause 6’4’’ FR OH - 2.48 kills per set, .77 blocks per set, .840 reception %
#25 Callie Schwarzenbach 6’5’’ SR MB - 1.16 kills per set, 1.29 blocks per set
#26 Lauren Stivrins 6’4’’ SR MB - 2.57 kills per set, .81 blocks per set

Ohio State (18-5, B1G 8-5)

#3 Mia Grunze 6’3’’ SR OH
#6 Kylie Murr 5’6’’ JR Libero
#7 Hannah Gruensfelder 5’5’’ SR DS
#8 Gabby Gonzales 6’3’’ JR OH
#10 Mac Podraza 6’2’’ JR Setter
#14 Arica Davis 5’11’’ FR MB
#18 Jenaisya Moore 6’0’’ JR OH
#20 Rylee Rader 6’2’’ SO MB
#22 Emily Londot 6’3’’ SO OH

Nebraska returns home to play host to Maryland on Friday, November 12th, with first serve set for 6 pm at the Devaney Center. The match will be televised statewide on Nebraska Public Media — formerly known as NET. John Baylor and Lauren Cook West will also have the radio call on Huskers Radio Network.