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Nebraska and Wisconsin Volleyball Play for a Big Ten Championship

They are also auditioning for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament; this match is a kinda big deal

Scott Bruhn

#5 Nebraska (24-3, B1G 16-2) vs #3 Wisconsin (23-3, B1G 17-1)
When: Saturday, November 25, 2022, 7 pm
Where: Devaney Center
Video: BTN
Radio: Husker Radio Network

#5 Nebraska (24-3, B1G 16-2)

#1 Nicklin Hames 5’10’’ SR Setter
#2 Kenzie Knuckles 5’8’’ SR DS/L
#4 Anni Evans 5’9’’ JR Setter
#5 Bekka Allick 6’4’’ FR MB
#7 Maisie Boesiger 5’6’’ FR DS/L
#8 Lexi Rodriguez 5’5’’ SO DS/L
#9 Kennedi Orr 6’0’’ SO Setter
#10 Madi Kubik 6’3’’ SR OH
#13 Whitney Lauenstein 6’2’’ SO OH
#14 Ally Batenhorst 6’5’’ SO OH
#22 Lindsay Krause 6’4’’ SO OH
#23 Kaitlyn Hord 6’4’’ SR MB
#33 Hayden Kubik 6’2’’ FR OH
#44 Maggie Mendelson 6’5’’ FR MB

#3 Wisconsin (23-3, B1G 17-1)

#6 MJ Hammill 6’2’’ JR Setter
#9 Caroline Crawford 6’3’’ JR MB
#10 Devyn Robinson 6’2’’ JR MB/RS
#11 Izzy Ashburn 5’11’’ SR Setter
#13 Sarah Franklin 6’4’’ R/SO OH
#14 Anna Smrek 6’9’’ SO MB/RS
#15 Jade Demps 6’2’’ JR OH
#18 Danielle Hart 6’4’’ 5th year MB
#22 Julia Orzol 6’0’’ SO OH

Nebraska and Wisconsin are playing for a Big Ten Championship tonight. The quest isn’t over tonight, both teams play on Saturday against another very good opponent; Nebraska plays Minnesota and Wisconsin plays Ohio State.

More than likely the Big Ten Champion will be the winner of the Wisconsin v Nebraska match. However, if Nebraska wins both their remaining games and the Badgers go on to beat Ohio State then the title will be split. There are no tie breakers and they will be co-champions.

If Wisconsin beats the Huskers tonight, then they are champions for the second year in a row.

These matches have implications for the NCAA seeding as well, as it is looking highly likely that there will be only one Big Ten team as a #1 seed this year. There’s just too many good teams and conferences across the country. The talent is spread. While the Big Ten remains the best conference in the country, there will still only be one #1 seed from this conference. The other #1 seeds will likely be Texas, Louisville and Stanford.

We know the match is important so here is how Nebraska wins.

Serving tough is how Nebraska goes on the offensive against Wisconsin. Passing Wisconsin’s serves is how they stay on the offensive. This is important in every match but since Wisconsin served Nebraska off the court last time they played, it is vital tonight.

That means Kenzie Knuckles, Lexi Rodriguez and Madi Kubik must have spot on games. They are the three main passers for Nebraska. They pass 98% of the served balls. They have to carry that load tonight and carry it well.

Knuckles and Kubik recently stated they would both move on after this season at Nebraska. They have one more year of eligibility because of the COVID year but they won’t use it. Knuckles went on to say that she “is going to leave it all out there and not have any regrets” in the final weeks of her college career.

This is when and where she leaves it all out there. This is the match. There are more in the future but this is definitely a match to give everything mentally and physically. Knuckles was a target of Wisconsin’s serves when these teams last played, October 26th 2022.

She didn’t pass well. No one on the Husker team did. It was surprising since she is normally a consistently strong passer and defender. Since that match she has played better; against Purdue she stood out with her defensive effort. Let’s see if she can keep it up and erase the last poor performance against Wisconsin.

On the outside, the Nebraska hitters stood out against Purdue. Kubik and Ally Batenhorst both played very well and earned 17 and 7 kills respectively. Kubik was named the Big Ten player of the week for her performance against the Boilmermakers and Iowa. She hit every shot in the book that weekend. Both outside hitters will need to perform at their best as Wisconsin has a big and well formed block.

If Nebraska’s middles are set, and establish themselves as a threat to attack, then the Badger block has to work much harder. Nebraska has to set the middles, Kaitlyn Hord and Bekka Allick, early in the match. Setting them early establishes their presence and makes the Badgers think about them on every play. Once they are thinking about the middles, setting the outside hitters becomes the play.

All of this needs to happen in the first set. Then each team settles into a longer term strategy where they set all the hitters in an unpredictable (hopefully) pattern and then those hitters are also trying to hit an unpredictable shot. The first shot is cross court, the second is a tip over the block and then they hit down the line. These are the games inside the larger game.

All of it starts with the serve from one team and the pass from the other. All the hitting, setting and blocking strategy means nothing if the serving and passing execution is poor. The winning team is the best serving and passing team tonight. GBR!