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Nebraska Volleyball at Northwestern for an Afternoon Block Party

Nebraska v Creighton Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

#4 Nebraska (20-2, B1G 12-1) vs Northwestern (17-8, B1G 6-7)
When: Sunday, November 6 2022, 1:00 pm (CT)
Where: Evanston, IL
Video: BTN+
Radio: Husker Radio Network

#4 Nebraska (20-2, B1G 12-1)

#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

Northwestern (17-8, B1G 6-7)

#1 Sienna Noordermeer 5’11’’ FR Setter
#7 Leilani Dodson 6’1’’ JR MB
#8 Averie Hernandez 6’2’’ FR OH
#12 Temi Thomas Ailara 6’2’’ SR OH
#18 Kathryn Randorf 6’1’’ FR OH
#19 Hanna Lesiak 6’2’’ SR OH
#21 Desiree Becker 6’2’’ SR MB
#23 Megan Miller 5’6’’ SR Libero

Nebraska last met Northwestern on October 16th at home when the Huskers beat them in three sets. Northwestern has been busy since then! They went on to win four matches in a row beating, Rutgers, Maryland, Purdue and Iowa. A nice run, but most recently they played Ohio State and lost in three sets.

Northwestern is receiving votes for the top 25 primarily because of the win over #12 Purdue in five sets. The Wildcats and Boilermakers are similar teams in that they heavily depend on one dominant outside hitter, Temi Thomas-Ailara in the case of Northwestern.

On the night they played Purdue, Thomas-Ailara had 25 kills. Couple that with Northwestern’s second outside hitter, Hanna Lesiak, earning 13 kills, and they tipped the balance for a Wildcat win. While outside hitters won the Purdue match for Northwestern, they could not do the same against the Buckeyes.

Northwestern lost to Ohio State quickly 22-25, 12-25, 18-25 because the Buckeyes blocked them 18 times. Wow, that is six blocks per set! That is off the charts. Maryland, the top blocking team in the country averages 3.35 blocks per set.

Nebraska will focus on hands pressed across the net while blocking the Wildcats. They will attempt to always have four hands in front of Thomas Ailara and Lesiak and sometimes they will have six hands.

Thomas Ailara is a 6’2’’ senior with a breadth of experience but she doesn’t vary her shots as often as her experience would lead you to think. She is a powerful hitter but if the block is well formed and located, then she is very blockable.

Megan Miller, former Husker, anchors the defense for Northwestern. She is a valuable player for her team and contributes greatly both with digs and tough serves. She can cause trouble with her serve. Coach Cook talked about serve receive patterns this week. He said Madi Kubik and Lexi Rodriguez decide when they need to pass with two passers and when they need three.

Against a tough server like Miller, we will see a third passer. Coach Cook reviewed the most recent loss to Wisconsin and said that they need to pass with three passer for more of the Wisconsin servers.

Tough servers make the ball move (float) and they serve the ball fast so the time between the server’s contact and when it arrives on your arms is quick. Passers don’t have time to hesitate nor much time to move their feet and passing platform (their arms). This lack of time is why three passers must cover the serve receive passing area.

The drawback of three passers is the creation of more seams between those passers. When two passers divide the court, there is only the one seam between them. The less seams the better. Seams make teams vulnerable to passers hesitating to make the move to the ball between them and another passer.

Watch the blocking and serve receive passing for Nebraska. These are not only key for a win over Northwestern but essential as the team refines play for the end of the season. GBR!