Nebraska volleyball starts Big Ten play tonight against Northwestern. Coach says that starting the Big Ten season is the start of a whole new season. The tricky part, though, is that the same team that played, or didn’t play, on Saturday against Louisville is still moving forward into this “whole new season”.
That team has to believe they are moving forward and not taking the baggage that weighed them down into conference play. In other words, can they shake off three straight losses?
The psychology of sport is on display when we watch a highly talented team, like this 2021 Husker volleyball squad, lose as big as they did on Saturday when the wheels absolutely fell off the bus.
While Saturday was hopefully at the extreme end of the performance spectrum for this team, Coach Cook said he feels as if these symptoms have been there for a couple years. He said “we get soft at the end of games”.
He needs them to have the confidence to go for it and “trust in their training” when the points matter. So, will Louisville be a hardening experience for this team, or was it a straw that broke the camel’s back?
For his part, Coach Cook is going to make a line up and “go with it for a while”. He doesn’t want “players looking over their shoulder” and wondering if another player will take their spot. Mentally he thinks the team on the court needs to meld together, and they need time on the court to do that.
We expect, then, to see the starters against Northwestern start again against Iowa on Saturday and then again in the trip to Michigan to play MSU and U of M. That is what we expect, but Coach Cook will also go with his gut and change when he feels it is right to change. He has a pretty good track record in this coaching volleyball stuff, I think, and his instincts are to be trusted.
The coach on the other side of the net tonight is Shane Davis. He is in his 6th year as the head coach of Northwestern. He was highly successful as a player and then coach at Loyola University. He has shown an upward trend at Northwestern both in winning more matches and bringing in recruits.
You remember Megan Miller former Husker defensive specialist. She is the libero for this Wildcat team. Temi Thomas-Ailara is a force on the outside for Northwestern. She is a 6’2’’ junior that averages almost four kills per set. Their setter is 6’3’’ sophomore Alexa Rousseau. She is left handed and will earn about one kill per set.
All these pieces for Northwestern are interesting, and seeing a new team is exciting, but what matters tonight is the play on Nebraska’s side of the net. The seven players that start tonight for the Huskers need to step forward and away from the timid play last week; they need to press. They need to take the level of play they have in practice and bring it to the match, when the lights are on.
We’ll have a game thread here starting an hour before match time. First serve is set for 8 pm at Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, Ill. The match will be televised on BTN. This week’s action will be carried on Huskers Radio Network. Huskers Radio Network will carry the matches on HRN radio affiliates, including 107.3 FM in Lincoln and AM 590 in Omaha. A live audio stream will be available at Huskers.com and on the Huskers app.