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Ameritas Players Challenge: Volleyball Opener vs Texas A&M Corpus Christi and Tulsa

The Devaney Center will see almost nonstop volleyball play for two days as Texas A&M CC, Tulsa and Pepperdine come to town

Scott Bruhn

Nebraska begins the regular season with a double header against Texas A&M Corpus Christi on Friday at 11 am (watch on B1G+ or listen on the Husker Radio Network) and then Tulsa at 6:30 pm (watch on Nebraska Public Media or listen on the Husker Radio Network).

Let’s take a look at the first opponent, Texas A&M Corpus Christi Islanders. First, have you seen their campus?

That is amazing! OK, back to volleyball.

This tournament is the only time Nebraska volleyball will play two matches in one day this season. Saturday is the third and final match of the weekend against Pepperdine. This is a lot of volleyball in a short timeframe so expect to see subs. Coach Cook will substitute so that players can rest, but also to give coaches a chance to see all players in a game situation.

Many players showed up for the red-white scrimmage and had impressive performances, but this is different. While Nebraska will scout and prepare for these three teams, they will not know their styles and tendencies as well as they know their own teammates. This will force them to learn on the court, and to adjust to what is in front of them. The pregame plan may be to, say, attack the blocker’s hands or serve to a certain player, but adjustments will be necessary and those can be hard mid-match.

Texas A&M CC, the Islanders, went 19-10 overall and 13-1 in the Southland Conference last season. They qualified for the NCAA tournament as the conference champion and lost to Baylor in the first round. They are picked to win the Southland Conference again this season.

Their setter, Faith Panhans, is a senior and honorable mention All-American. She will attack the ball as well as set her hitters. The responsibility for defending the setter attack goes first to the left side hitter and then the left and right back defenders.

Kyndal Payne will earn some kills, and will provide a good challenge for the left side hitters to demonstrate their proficiency at blocker the setter. The competition at starter on the left side currently is between Madi Kubik, Ally Batenhorst and Lindsay Krause. It will come down to difference makers. Stopping an attacking setter makes a difference, so watch this aspect of the game closely.

If we apply this difference making aspect forward, when Nebraska plays top ten rated Ohio State September 24th, they will face Mac Podraza, who is a fantastic attacking setter. Left side hitters need to know when she is front row and watch her hands to know when she is attacking and when she is setting. Coach Cook is watching tomorrow’s match to be prepared for the Buckeyes.

Back to the Islanders. They will set sophomore OH Payne a lot. She will get about 40% of all the sets. This gives Husker blockers a direction to lean but they will still have to be in good position and form when they go up to block her because she is a skilled hitter.

Nebraska will serve away from senior libero Carissa Barnes, as she is the Islander’s best passer. The Huskers will stress the serve receive of the Islanders, overall, which will force them to set to the outside. This game plan will lead to a 3-0 win for Nebraska in this match but do expect a few ups and downs as Nebraska works through changes in the OH hitter and MB position.

By the end of the weekend the coaches, and us fans, will have a much better idea who the other starting middle will be along with Kaitlyn Hord; is it Maggie Mendelson or Bekka Allick? I don’t expect we will know who will play OH with Kubik; Batenhorst or Krause, until later in the season.

The second match for the Huskers on Friday is vs Tulsa at 6:30 pm. Tulsa has the first match of the day at 9 am against Pepperdine, and they’ll have had a chance to watch Nebraska play. Both teams will sit, eat, stretch, have a team meeting to talk strategy and start their warm up routine again for the evening match.

We will see a different line up against Tulsa to give players rest and give other players a chance to start the match and demonstrate their ability to execute skills they have been practicing.

Tulsa was 14-16 overall and 9-11 in the American Athletic Conference. Tulsa went to the National Invitational Volleyball Championship last season and lost to UTEP in the first round.

Nebraska will take the positives and negatives from the morning match and look to either build or improve on them in this match.

Playing two matches in one day gives the team a chance to experience something on the court, listen to coaching during the break about how to use or change that experience and almost immediately try to apply the coaching to another match situation. What a valuable learning environment!

Nebraska wins against Tulsa in three sets. GBR!