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Volleyball: #2 Nebraska vs #13 Kentucky Preview

#2 Nebraska (7-1) vs #13 Kentucky (5-3)
When: Sunday, September 18 2022, 2:00 pm (CT)
Where: Lexington, KY
Video: ESPN2
Radio: Husker Radio Network

#2 Nebraska (7-1)

#1 Nicklin Hames 5’10’’ SR Setter/DS
#2 Kenzie Knuckles 5’8’’ SR DS/L
#4 Anni Evans 5’9’’ JR Setter/Serving Specialist
#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

#13 Kentucky (5-3)

#4 Emma Grome 5’9’’ SO Setter
#6 Eleanor Beavin 5’5’’ SO Libero
#8 Adanna Rollins 6’0’’ SR OH
#10 Reagan Rutherford 6’0’’ JR OH
#11 Elise Goetzinger 6’4’’ JR MB
#13 Erin Lamb 6’3’’ SO OH
#15 Azhani Tealer 5’10’’ SR MB

Kentucky volleyball changed, and the national perception of it, when they won National Championship in 2021. They get a different level of recruit to their program now, and those recruits come because of the success. They still have six players that played on that championship team, three of whom played large roles, so they know how to play on the big stage and win. This is all to say, Kentucky will play well and hard against the #2 Huskers.

Along with great recruits, Kentucky attracted one key transfer portal player for this year, Adanna Rollins. Last season she played for Penn State, the year before that Minnesota. At each stop she makes an impact as an outside hitter, and it is no different this year at Kentucky. Rollins earns 3.5 kills per set which is second on the team behind the right side hitter, Reagan Rutherford with 3.7 kills per set.

Head Coach Craig Skinner is the third former Nebraska assistant coach that John Cook will face this season. Nebraska hosted Kayla Banwarth with Ole Miss, then Tyler Hildebrand with Long Beach State. All these coaches are seeing success, but Craig Skinner has taken Kentucky to the NCAA tournament 16 years in a row after the team had missed it for the previous 12 years, and of course has that one championship. That is the next level of success.

Kentucky runs a fast offense with generally undersized players for their position, and while their hitters have shots to hit, they tend to power through blocks rather than go over them. Kentucky sets all five of their hitters consistently but Rollins receives about 30% of the sets. Reagan Rutherford also gets set about 30% of the time on the right side.

The middles, Azhani Tealer and Elise Goetzinger receive about 13% and second outside, Erin Lamb, gets set about 15% of the time. That is good set distribution from Emma Grome, the sophomore setter. She set her freshman year, and did well enough to earn SEC Freshman of the Year. She was also working to fill Madison Lilley’s shoes, the All American setter from the National Championship team. Big shoes.

The Wildcats are not a great blocking team, especially their left side. Nebraska will attack with our right side hitters to take advantage of this weakness. There are also specific targets on serve receive; Rollins is improved in passing through her years and teams but she will still send a pass to the bleachers so Nebraska will serve to her when she is in.

Mostly this match is about Nebraska getting comfortable in their own shoes. It is the last game of the first third of the season, in other words, it is still really early. Coupled with changes to the line ups, they are still finding out who they are as a team. Respond with precise play, balls placed according to the game plan and lower the error rate. Those are the details Nebraska needs to improve plus it will lead to a win against Kentucky.