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Volleyball: #3 Nebraska hosts #20 Utah and Evening Football Thread

Hot off a top twenty victory against #19 Creighton, Nebraska Volleyball aims to earn another against Utah

Jordyn Senstock

#3 Nebraska Cornhuskers (6-0) vs #20 Utah (6-0)
When: Saturday, September 11, 2021, 7:30 pm (CT)
Where: Devaney Center
Video: BTN+
Live Radio: Husker Sports Network - Lincoln (B107.3 FM); Omaha (AM 590);; Huskers App

University of Nebraska (6-0)

#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
#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

Utah (6-0)

#1 Dani Drews 6’0’’ fifth year senior OH
#7 Zoe Weatherington 6’2’’ JR OH
#9 Stef Jankiewicz 5’10’’ SR Setter
#10 Kennedi Evans 6’2’’ Redshirt JR MB
#13 Madelyn Robinson 5’10’’ SR OH
#16 Allie Olsen 6’3’’ SO MB
#17 Vanessa Ramirez 5’4’’ SO Libero
#19 Phoebe Grace 6’2’’ Redshirt SR MB

Utah remains unbeaten through their first six matches. Notably, they beat #22 San Diego in four sets. Dani Drews is a three time all American on the Utes squad, and the entire offense revolves around here. She will receive more sets than anyone else on their team, which makes sense; she is a dynamic hitter and can hit from anywhere on the court.

Beyond Drews’ individual talent, this is an experienced Utah team. They reached the NCAA tournament last season but lost to Pittsburgh in the first round. They were 13-4 in the PAC 12 last season, which is obviously a pretty tough volleyball conference.

They return the complete squad from last season’s campaign, along with head coach Beth Launiere who is in her 32nd season as head coach. You will also recognize associate head coach Malia Shoji (Shoji’s dad, Tom, has been a volleyball coach at the NCAA level for more than 30 years. Her uncle, Dave, was the head coach at Hawai’i 40 years). Malia Shoji is in her seventh season at Utah. There is continuity on the roster, and on the staff. They won’t be scared of this matchup against the Huskers. They’ve been there, done that.

Utah is second in the nation in blocks per set averaging 3.44 as a team so far this season. The middles, Evans and Olsen, each average 1.59 and 1.46 respectively. For reference, Callie Schwarzenbach averages 1.45 and Kayla Caffey 1.28.

All American Drews averages 4.90 kills per set which is good for 13th in the nation. Lexi Sun is averaging 2.95 and Madi Kubik 2.81 kills per set, to give you a sense of how dominant she is. While Drews’ kills per set numbers are impressive, and likely to win her more accolades, it also means the offense for Utah is unbalanced. This one dimensional offense is more vulnerable because it depends on one player.

Utah Senior Madelyn Robinson outside hitter will receive a great deal of sets and averages 3.29 kills per set. The last real offensive weapon to watch is Weatherington, on the right side. She is averaging 2.38 kills per set. They run a fast offense that beats teams with speed and accuracy in placement of hits.

Look for Nebraska to serve right at the two outside hitters, Drews and Robinson. They will serve Drews to overload her, and give her more work to do. They will serve Robinson because she is the most error prone in the serve receive pattern.

Nebraska will win behind:
1. Tough serving to disrupt the fast offense
2. Disciplined blocking that stays with the assigned hitter
3. Quality serve receive passing that allows Nicklin Hames to spread the Husker offense

I’m seeing a Nebraska win in four sets. Drews will get her kills, but our back row will dig enough to keep her from being enough, on her own, to win. So the Utes will need to find other options and our tough block will be too much.