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Game Thread NCAA Volleyball: Nebraska vs. Texas Preview and Semi Final Analysis

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Jordyn Senstock

#2 Texas (27-1) vs #10 Nebraska (24-7)

Watch: ESPNU
How to watch/listen
First serve: Saturday 12/11, 9:00 pm CT
Streaming: ESPN app; Watch ESPN
Radio: Husker Radio Network
Live stats: Accessible by going to the Huskers volleyball schedule and looking for the live stats icon next to tonight’s match info
Location: Austin, Texas

Listen to how Nebraska beats Texas and how they started doing those things against Illinois:


No. Name Pos. Ht. Yr. Hometown (High School/Previous School)
1 Nicklin Hames S 5-10 Sr. Maryville, Tenn. (Webb School)
2 Kenzie Knuckles DS/L 5-8 Jr. Yorktown, Ind. (Yorktown)
3 Kayla Caffey MB 6-0 Sr. Chicago, Ill. (Mother McAuley/Missouri)
4 Anni Evans S 5-9 So. Waverly, Neb. (Waverly)
6 Keonilei Akana DS/L 5-9 So. Hauula, Hawaii (Kamehameha Kapalama)
7 Rylee Gray MB 6-4 Fr. Elkhorn, Neb. (Elkhorn South)
8 Lexi Rodriguez DS/L 5-5 Fr. Sterling, Ill. (Sterling)
9 Kennedi Orr S 6-0 Fr. Eagan, Minn. (Eagan)
10 Madi Kubik OH 6-3 Jr. West Des Moines, Iowa (Valley)
11 Lexi Sun OH 6-2 Sr. Encinitas, Calif. (Santa Fe Christian/Texas)
13 Whitney Lauenstein OH 6-2 Fr. Waverly, Neb. (Waverly)
14 Ally Batenhorst OH 6-4 Fr. Houston, Texas (Seven Lakes)
20 Kalynn Meyer MB 6-3 So. Superior, Neb. (Superior)
22 Lindsay Krause OH 6-4 Fr. Papillion, Neb. (Skutt Catholic)
25 Callie Schwarzenbach MB 6-5 Sr. Kearney, Mo. (Kearney)
26 Lauren Stivrins MB 6-4 Sr. Scottsdale, Ariz. (Chaparral)

Coaching Staff
Head Coach: John Cook (22nd year; San Diego, 1979)
Associate Head Coach: Tyler Hildebrand (2nd year; Long Beach State, 2006)
Assistant Coach: Jaylen Reyes (4th year; BYU, 2015)
Director of Operations: Lindsay Peterson (16th year; Nebraska, 2003)
Video & Administrative Coordinator: Brian Magbitang (2nd year; Wichita State, 2016)
Graduate Assistant: Ryan Vorderer (2nd year; Lindenwood, 2018)
Volunteer Assistant: Kelly Hunter (2nd year; Nebraska, 2017)


Name Academic Year HT. POS. Hometown / High School
1 Madison Williams So. 6-2 OH Grand Prairie, Texas / Mansfield Lake Ridge
2 Jhenna Gabriel Jr. 5-8 S Honolulu, Hawaii / Maryknol
3 DeAndra Pierce Fr. 6-1 MB Austin, Texas / Austin
4 Melanie Parra So. 5-11 OH Culiacán, Sinaloa, México / UANL Tigres
5 Skylar Fields Jr. 6-2 OPP Missouri City, Texas / Ridge Point
7 Asjia O’Neal R-Jr. 6-3 MB Southlake, Texas / Southlake Carroll
8 Sydney Petersen Sr. 5-4 L Dike, Iowa / Dike-New Hartford
9 Saige Ka’aha’aina-Torres Jr. 6-0 S Honolulu, Hawaii / ‘Iolani
10 Brionne Butler Sr. 6-4 MB Kendleton, Texas / Boling
12 Nalani Iosia So. 5-8 L Torrance, Calif. / Redondo Union
15 Molly Phillips Jr. 6-5 MB Mansfield, Texas / Mansfield
19 Reilly Heinrich So. 5-6 L Georgetown, Texas / Rouse
24 Naomi Cabello So. 6-1 S Clermont, Fla. / East Ridge
33 Logan Eggleston Jr. 6-2 OH Brentwood, Tenn. / Brentwood

Coaching Staff
Jerritt Elliott Head Coach
Tonya Johnson Associate Head Coach / Recruiting Coordinator
Erik Sullivan Associate Head Coach/Technical Coordinator

Regional final schedule in Central Time:
3 pm #3 Pitt vs #6 Purdue
5 pm #1 Louisville vs #8 Georgia Tech
7 pm #4 Wisconsin vs #12 Minnesota
9 pm #2 Texas vs #10 Nebraska

The final eight teams include:
4 Big Ten teams
3 ACC teams
1 Big 12 team

Since two Big Ten teams play each other and two ACC teams play each other, each conference is guaranteed at least one team in the final four. This is the 15th straight tournament that the Big Ten had a team in the final four.

Regional Semi Final Analysis

All matches took place Thursday, December 9th

Louisville vs Florida. Florida was without 5th year outside hitter T’ara Ceasar, who did not make the trip. Florida really needed her, or, they just needed something more. They were outmatched by this undefeated Louisville squad. Tori Dilfer is the Cardinal’s setter and she has great connections with each of her hitters.

Connections are interesting. These women play together through the whole season and set, hit and pass tens of thousands of balls. Each hitter needs the ball in a slightly different spot, or to be set faster or slower than the player next to her. The art of a good setter is giving each player their best ball to hit for that hitter. Dilfer does this well.

Anna DeBeer is a sophomore outside hitter and one of the stars of this #1 Louisville team. She gets more sets and more kills than anyone else on this team. She does it by hitting around the block mostly. More of her balls hit the floor untouched by the defense than any other outside hitter I’ve watched. DeBeer seems to hang in the air a long time, look around and then hit the ball to the open court. Now tell me, physics enthusiasts, if this is possible. Can she hang in the air longer than another outside hitter? My eyes tell me she does.

Ohio State vs Georgia Tech I thought this would be a good match. It was not. I will officially change my mind here about GT; they are good. They are the #8 seed and they earned that seed. They made OSU look sluggish. OSU does not usually look sluggish.

The Yellowjackets have a senior right side player that comes flying, soaring really, from the back row and seems to give all her energy in every attack. Usually, she lands inches from the net, crouched low and ready to celebrate a kills. Mariana Brambilla hails from Brazil and she lights a fire of urgency for her team. Julia Bergmann is 6’5’’ Junior outside hitter from Germany. She does the heavy lifting for this team with about 35% of the attack attempts. When they need a kill it is going to one of these two women.

Nebraska fans, you’ll remember Nicole Drewnick, 6’1’’ setter. She transferred from Nebraska two seasons ago. She is a part of this GaTech roster but not seeing much playing time.

Pitt vs Kansas was a similar story to Louisville and Florida. Pitt was clearly the better team by looking at the play on the court and the scores in the books. Pitt won 25-19, 25-21, 25-18. Kansas stayed with Pitt early in each set but by around 11 points Pitt began to separate and the set was not in question.

Pitt is a high powered offensive team. They hit .356 as a team for the match. They didn’t shut Kansas down; KU hit .277. But Pitt just had more kills and the Jayhawks didn’t help themselves with 9 serve receive errors and 6 service errors. Both of those numbers are instant points for the other team.

Purdue vs BYU You were most likely working, or pretending to work, while this match was on. If you didn’t catch, that’s a shame, it was high drama. The first four sets were a tale of two teams. Purdue won set 1 hitting .379 and BYU hit -.179. Those numbers then reversed in set 2, and BYU wins. BYU wins set 3 by a closer margin, 25-21, but Purdue storms back to win set 4, 25-13. It was a roller coaster ride with one team high while the other was low. Set 5 went back and forth, but BYU was always up by two or three points.

Set five is the story here. It was 12-10, BYU with the lead when Purdue’s defensive specialist Marissa Hornung went back to serve. She missed, and it was 13-10, with BYU up.

13-10 in set five is bad news for the team with 10. The odds are not in your favor. Then BYU serves, almost aces Purdue but they do get it over the net. BYU gets a free ball and an easy kill, 14-10. The odds are even worse for Purdue now. Simple math says that at this point Purdue needed to score 6 points to win and BYU only needed 1.

Purdue only had a 14% chance of winning at that point, but they did. The libero, Jena Otec served two consecutive aces, TWO!, to make it 14-13. Purdue then blocked the BYU outside hitter’s attack to earn 14-14. Now all the odds have changed. Tying the score was unbelievable to see, and statistically very highly unlikely.

In the end, Purdue won set five 18-16. Jena Otec is a serving legend for all time, now. But I also thought about how pressure situations can make teams tight. BYU didn’t play many big matches this season. Their conference is not very competitive for volleyball. Perhaps Purdue can thank the gauntlet of good teams in the Big Ten for their poise under pressure. I’m sure the thank you card is in the mail!

Minnesota vs Baylor Around the same time OSU was being dismantled by GaTech, Minnesota and Baylor were playing. What a match this was. Stephanie Samedy on the right side for Minnesota and Yossiana Pressley on the right side for Baylor. These two women are the best right sides in the college game. They had 63 and 61 attempts respectively. This is a good deal more attempts than anyone else on their team.

The supporting cast for Samedy and Pressley are great players too, but not stars. For Minnesota in this match, two outside hitters stepped up, Airi Miyabe and Jenna Wenaas. They had 18 and 13 kills.

Baylor has Avery Skinner (transfer from Kentucky) and Lauren Harrison on the outside. These two did some real damage to the Gopher defense but it wasn’t enough. Minnesota just kept coming back at the Bears.

The middle hitters didn’t play an offensive role for Minnesota but MH Katie Meyers was pivotal from the service line. She closed out set four on the service line in a must win situation for for the Golden Gophers. Then, Coach McCutcheon chose to have her begin serving set five. That’s rare; A MIDDLE as the starting server! Ha! And you know what she did? She started set five with an ace. Bold move, coach. Minnesota went on to win set five and the match 15-10.

Wisconsin vs UCLA was enjoyable to watch only if you are a Badger fan or appreciate one sided volleyball. Wisconsin was efficient, dominant and most likely didn’t break a sweat in this match. They won 25-16, 25-18, 25-17. UCLA had one offensive weapon (Mac May) compared to Wisconsin’s 5 weapons.

The Badgers looked good, great, really wonderful. The tricky part about this team, largely the same team that lost in the finals two years ago and the semi finals last year, is that they always look good, until they don’t. This team doesn’t respond to volleyball blows well. When they get punched, they go down. Don’t get me wrong, they have a ton of talent. They come into matches with effective strategy but when it isn’t working, they don’t respond well to in match adjustment.

The Wisconsin vs. Minnesota matchup in the regional finals is interesting because although these two teams played twice in the Big Ten conference season and both matches were won by Wisconsin (3-0 and 3-2), Minnesota is progressing as a team as the season moves forward. The Gophers are getting better. The Badgers are very good, obviously, and have been since game one. Has Minnesota improved enough since the last match up of these two teams to get over the hump to beat Wisconsin?

Texas vs Washington almost made the volleyball world stop spinning. #15 Washington beat Texas the first two sets. Jaw dropping, whiplash relooking the score and a million questions.

Texas could not terminate the ball early against Washington. For their part, the Huskies hit very well in the first two sets. They also served very tough and found the floor for 3 aces. They hit .387 and .414 in sets 1 and 2. In sets 3, 4 and 5 they hit .154, -.036 and .067. The Texas block came alive.

It was very interesting that Texas subbed out their starting setter, Jhenna Gabriel, in the middle of set 3. I haven’t seen them do this before. The player they subbed in was no taller than Gabriel so I am left to assume that set choices and location were poor.

Nebraska played Illinois in the other match in the Texas regional. One of the Illini star players, Megan Cooney, wasn’t able to travel. While many of the Illinois players stepped up to fill her shoes, their effort was not enough. Nebraska won in three sets, 25-12, 25-21, 25-17.

Nicklin Hames, has pushed the ball to the middle hitters this entire tournament. This is different than she was doing in the conference season. The variety of offense makes the Huskers a much better team.

Kayla Caffey had 11 kills last night, Madi Kubik 11, Lindsday Krause 8 and Ally Batenhorst 6. Lauren Stivrins only had 3 kills on 13 attempts. Not sure why these numbers are low.

Serving was excellent for Nebraska with Stivrins leading the way with 3 aces, Kenzie Knuckles also had 3. Stivrins’ long arms and tall body give her a high contact point on her serve which allows her to give the ball a bigger downward angle compared to other players. She hits it flat and fast at the passers, so the ball gets on them quickly. When she gets it in, she causes trouble for passers.

I expect she will serve against Texas, as will every other tough server on Nebraska’s roster. The keys to Coach Cook’s heart, or at least his starting line up, are tough serves. Nebraska will also try to mix up their offense by setting all five hitters. Texas is an excellent blocking team, so even with a spread offense, hitters will need to see the block while they are in the air and try to hit off or around it.