#12 Nebraska Cornhuskers (7-3) vs Iowa (2-9)
When: Saturday, September 25, 2021, 2:00 pm (CT)
Where: Devaney Center
Video: Big Ten Network+
Live Radio: Husker Sports Network - Lincoln (B107.3 FM); Omaha (AM 590); Huskers.com; Huskers App
Nebraska played composed and fluid, defeating Northwestern in four sets on Wednesday in Evanston, IL.
Nebraska 3 vs Northwestern 1 - 25-21, 25-21, 23-25, 25-16
This team has struggled to play together in the three matches prior to Wednesday, so to see fluid and composed play is a sign of progress. Coach Cook commented after the Northwestern win that he thought the team was resilient that night.
The starting lineup included Ally Batenhorst, Madi Kubik and Lindsay Krause in the outside hitter positions. Coach said prior to the match that he was going to pick a line up and “go with it for a while”.
After the Huskers lost set three, however, it seems Coach’s tolerance got a little lower. After going down 3-7 to start the fourth, Lexi Sun came in for the first time all match, taking the place of Batenhorst. Sun was the difference the team needed in that set. She blocked three balls, which was huge. She had six hitting attempts with zero kills and one error.
The statistics don’t make the case that Sun was the key to winning set four, but if you watched the match, you saw the difference she made, guiding the team across the finish line for the win. Even still, she won’t start against Iowa. I expect it to be Batenhorst in the starting lineup, once again. Coach talked about Sun after the Northwestern match and said “when she is dialed in is the best left side blocker in the country”.
We can all agree that Sun is super talented, and has harnessed so much of that talent as she is a reigning three-time All American. But we’ve also seen too many times where, when the match is on the line, she is not getting that kill that the team needs to win. She seems to lack the ability to get dialed in, which is an essential part of being the #1 offensive weapon on any team. I think Batenhorst is getting the nod based on her total possible potential.
The Sun substitution is certainly interesting, and a story to follow as the season moves along, but it wasn’t the only intriguing takeaway from the Northwestern match. A few more items to keep our eyes on: Krause played very well, with 15 kills and a .500 hitting percentage.
Kayla Caffey is established as the most consistent player on the team this season. She had 12 kills and .647 hitting percentage. When Nicklin Hames sets her high enough, Caffey gets kills. She is also averaging a block a set which is very good.
We also saw the defensive prowess this Husker team on display once again. We had last seen this team play amazing defense two weeks ago against Creighton. Nebraska had 54 digs to Northwestern’s 41. Keonilei Akana had 13 digs, Hames 11 and Lexi Rodriguez 7.
Akana had a series of digs where she moved to the right, then the left all while flying through the air and digging with one arm. She chipped in an ace along with lots of tough serves. We know Coach Cook worked on schemes to make sure she, Kenzie Knuckles and Rodriquez were on the court together. He called them “difference makers”, and we saw that against the Wildcats.
Kubik led all players with 19 kills on 45 attempts (twice as many as the next player), hitting .289. Kubik was superb out of the backrow. She should always be on the court for this team. Coach Cook felt like she and Hames were the mental leaders on the court on Wednesday as well. So, Kubik, through her performance and leadership may be the true leader of this squad.
The Iowa team the Huskers face today is hungry for a win. They are 2-9, and took Illinois to five sets on Wednesday. They are largely one dimensional, with #2 Courtney Buzzerio hitting in the front and back row. She has 4.68 kills per set on average. She hits on the right side, so our left side blocking needs to have discipline on timing and being in the correct position.
This will challenge Batenhorst, so expect to see blocking subs or quick changes to the blocking scheme as the match progresses. Iowa, for their part, is not a great blocking team. They average a full block less than their opponents per set which is big disadvantage in that stat.
University of Nebraska (6-3)
#1 Nicklin Hames 5’10’’ SR Setter - 2.94 digs per set
#2 Kenzie Knuckles 5’8’’ JR DS - 1.53 digs per set, .956 reception %
#3 Kayla Caffey 6’0’’ SR MB - 2.33 kills per set, 1.10 blocks per set
#4 Anni Evans 5’9’’ SO Setter
#6 Keonilei Akana 5’9’’ SO DS - 1.84 digs per set, .905 reception %
#7 Rylee Gray 6’4’’ FR MB
#8 Lexi Rodriguez 5’5’’ FR Libero - 4.0 digs per set, .980 reception %
#9 Kennedi Orr 6’0’’ FR Setter
#10 Madi Kubik 6’3’’ JR OH - 2.49 kills per set, .39 blocks per set, .932 reception %
#11 Lexi Sun 6’2’’ SR OH- 2.41 kills per set, .45 blocks per set, .947 reception %
#13 Whitney Lauenstein 6’2’’ FR OH - 1.44 kills per set, .44 blocks per set
#14 Ally Batenhorst 6’4’’ FR OH - 1.57 kills per set, .31 blocks per set, .933 reception %
#20 Kalynn Meyer 6’3’’ SO MB
#22 Lindsay Krause 6’4’’ FR OH - 2.14 kills per set, .90 blocks per set, .824 reception %
#25 Callie Schwarzenbach 6’5’’ SR MB - 1.18 kills per set, 1.26 blocks per set
#26 Lauren Stivrins 6’4’’ SR MB
#2 Courtney Buzzerio 6’5’’ SR OH- 4.682 kills per set
#8 Kyndra Hansen 6’2’’ JR OH- 1.938 kills per set
#9 Amiya Jones 6’2’’ SR MB
#10 Mari Hinkle 5’9’’ JR Libero
#12 Bailey Ortega 5’9’’ SO Setter
#18 Hannah Clayton 6’2’’ SR MB- 1.977 kills per set
#22 Addie Venderweide 6’0’’ FR OH - 2.176 kills per set
Nebraska welcomes Iowa on Saturday, Sept. 25, with first serve set for 2 p.m. at the Devaney Center. The match will be televised on Nebraska Public Media — formerly known as NET — and streamed on Big Ten Network+. John Baylor and Lauren Cook West will have the radio call on Huskers Radio Network.