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Nebraska Volleyball Travels to Iowa...To Focus on Themselves

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They players say they missed opportunities to control what they could control against Ohio State

Jon Johnston

#5 Nebraska plays Iowa this week in a Wednesday and Saturday series. Wednesday the Huskers travel to Iowa City for a 7 pm match on BTN. They return home and play in Devaney on Saturday at 6 pm on BTN+. Coach Cook said he was “glad they have the opportunity to play right away after Saturday’s match”.

He said the players responded to the loss to Ohio State with an intense practice that they (the players) didn’t want to end. Coach Cook had the right side players, Jazz Sweet and Riley Zuhn, who have been unable to significantly contribute to the offense, in a very competitive drill. He is hoping to “get someone confident out there”, he said, and that both players have been putting in time to improve. Let’s hope that pays off.

Nebraska is #5 in the Coaches Poll. This is the first time they have dropped a position in the poll this season. Nebraska began the season as #5 and then moved up to #4 in week two, where they stayed for five weeks.

The Huskers dropped to #5 after, of course, going 1-1 in two five set matches to then #11 Ohio State. Meanwhile, OSU moved up to #9 after the weekend. The Buckeyes were not ranked at the start of the season, but after five weeks and a 9-0 record they were #19.

It has been a pretty rapid ascent; they have moved up each weekend. You have to see them as legit at his point, splitting with Nebraska and beating Penn State in their two marquee match ups so far. Another B1G team is a national threat! Add them to the list.

Here is this weeks top 25:

  1. Wisconsin (53)
  2. Texas (6)
  3. Kentucky (1)
  4. Minnesota
  5. Nebraska
  6. Baylor
  7. Florida
  8. Washington
  9. Ohio State
  10. Purdue
  11. Utah
  12. Penn State
  13. Louisville
  14. Washington State
  15. UCLA
  16. BYU
  17. Oregon
  18. Notre Dame
  19. Pittsburgh
  20. Western Kentucky
  21. San Diego
  22. Pepperdine
  23. Georgia Tech
  24. Creighton
  25. Florida State

There are three more weekends before the NCAA tournament begins. Nebraska plays Iowa, Michigan and Penn State in that order. Michigan is a road series and Penn State is at home. Winning out would likely keep Nebraska right where it is in the poll, #5.

The loss this weekend could have moved NU out of a #1 seed position in the tournament (remember volleyball ranks 4 teams #1, one in each region). This matters less this year as the seeding will be all over the map and #1 teams may end up with difficult roads to the semifinals because of seeding misjudgments.

OK OK, this is sooooo far in the future. I will refocus on the now. Let’s look at this week’s competition.

Iowa is 3-11 with wins against Indiana, Rutgers and Northwestern. They also lost to each of those teams in their two game weekend series, along with two losses to Maryland, Ohio State Purdue and Illinois.

Third year head coach, Vicki Brown, plays a lot of people on this Iowa squad. They just don’t have a set line up even at this point in the season.

They run a 6-2, where one setter, Courtney Buzzerio, sets in the backrow and hits in the front row. Buzzerio is their most productive player and never comes off the court. Edina Schmidt is a sophomore outside from Germany. She averages 2.49 kills per set.

Iowa does serve well. They average 1.31 aces per set. Bailey Ortega, freshman setter, and Buzzerio are the leaders in this category for Iowa. Serving tough is one key component to Iowa’s game plan. They need to serve well to earn “easy” points as well as to disrupt the Husker offense.

They will also try the tipping attack that OSU found successful against the Huskers last weekend. Nebraska did not prove that they could pick up tips, especially those right over the top of the block. Iowa will try to make this work for them.

Nebraska doesn’t care who is across the net. They want to maintain a high level of focus for the ENTIRE MATCH. No let downs. They will over communicate in order to move forward from the previous weekend.

Madi Kubik said “everyone will play their best match against us”. The team expects to play against the best their opponent has to offer. Kubik has worked on maintaining focus in the match and says she can see when the team loses their focus.

The sophomore outside hitter uses cue words to refocus herself. Before the ball is served to her she says “simple” knowing that the more simple she keeps her game, the better she plays. When she is serving she makes sure to use the same routine every time and says, “BREATHE”.

These internal “games” are what Nebraska is preparing while they play Iowa. Coach Cook will need to have the Iowa roster in front of him at the postgame interview as he is not preparing for a specific player or players. He won’t know their names. This is often true, but is amplified after a weekend where they didn’t control all the parts of the game that they could control. This week, Nebraska evaluates itself against itself.