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Nebraska Volleyball Opening Weekend

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The mental battle and schedule changes

Scott Bruhn

This weekend is much less about the teams on the other side of the net and much more about which players Coach Cook plays, and how they play, qualitatively. I will go a step further and say that that the stats are not the important thing this weekend (although stats are always important). This is a weekend that we watch the players, not the game.

The most important part of this weekend is how players respond to moments of small adversity, which will surely come. Look for the sequences that puts players in some stress, because that will tell you who is “playing with an edge” as Coach Cook says it.

He asked the players to “max out every point”, and to be in that point not thinking about the outcome of the match, or the point that just past. This is a mental task that quickly translates to a physical one; it is easy to say but hard to do.

For instance, what does Madi Kubik do after a hitting error? I mean her body language, engagement with team and then the next touch on the ball. Often times teams serve a player right after a mistake because her head isn’t all there. She is more likely to make a passing mistake if she is still working through that past hitting mistake in her head. Then what she does on her next hitting attempt tells us a lot about where she is mentally. Tip the ball, swing away and making another error or swing away and make a kill?

What does Lindsay Krause do after she is blocked? What does each player do when she faces a challenge? This is sports and these reactions are always important, but to Nebraska, a team with talent coming out of their ears, they each have to push mentally so that the six on the court are as sharp and focused as they can be in the critical matches to come later in the season.

They must play every point with focus and urgency. They must leave the last point behind and only see the next opportunity. The players that do these things will be on the court and the players that don’t will only get to challenge the starters in practice. Mentality is keyword of the weekend. So, let’s keep an eye on that.

Coach Cook reported that Nicklin Hames didn’t tear or break anything during the Red-White Scrimmage on Saturday. He does not, however, think she will be ready to play this weekend.

I am excited to see how Anni Evans and Kennedi Orr play in the matches at the setting position. They have an opportunity in front of them that they may not have expected, but it is exactly that; a chance to give what they have to the team.

When you have a new player on the court, especially at the setting position, the dynamic of the team changes. In my experience this can bring good things. A new setter, and in this case, a freshmen new to the program and a hard working under sized player, it can bring the team together in a different way than strong and fearless leader Hames does. Hames, as the starting setter, always gets the job done and her team needs that.

Now, though, players will want to pass the ball better so that Orr’s job is easy or Evans won’t have to run as far. There is a sense of selflessness that emerges when a new or younger players is out there, as the rest of the team rallies around her, can really move a team forward. For a championship run, we will need Hames out there at 100%. But there is a silver lining that can emerge from her absence, let’s see how it plays out!

The Nebraska volleyball program will honor former Husker All-American and 2020 Olympic gold medalist Justine Wong-Orantes on Saturday, August 28th during the final match of the Husker Invitational.

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Wong-Orantes joined former Huskers Jordan Larson and Kelsey Robinson on the Team USA roster this summer as the Americans made history at the Tokyo Games by claiming their first gold medal. The Cypress, CA native was named Best Libero and earned a spot on the Tokyo 2020 Dream Team following her Olympic debut.

Wong-Orantes was a four-year letter winner at Nebraska from 2013-16 and earned both All-America and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year recognition in 2015 and 2016. She was an All-Big Ten pick as a senior and finished her career as NU’s all-time career digs leader.

#5 Nebraska volleyball team’s season opener with Tulsa has been cancelled in accordance with COVID-19 protocols, and the schedule for this weekend’s Husker Invitational has been amended.

The tournament schedule now includes three matches for the weekend at the Devaney Center. On Friday, August 27th, Kansas State and Colgate meet at 11 am, followed by the originally-scheduled Colgate-Nebraska match at 6:30 pm. The tournament concludes on Saturday, August 28th with Kansas State-Nebraska at 4 pm.

Fans will receive free admission to Friday morning’s match between K-State and Colgate.

Nebraska’s Friday match will be streamed live on Big Ten Network+, and Saturday’s match will be televised on BTN. John Baylor and Lauren Cook West will have the radio call on the Huskers Radio Network.