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Nebraska Volleyball: Strategy to Beat the Unbeatable Wisconsin

Scott Bruhn

#2 Nebraska (18-0, B1G 9-0) vs #1 Wisconsin (18-0, B1G 9-0)
When: Saturday, October 21, 2023, 7:00 pm (CT)
Where: Devaney Center Lincoln, NE
Video: BTN/FoxSports
Radio: Husker Radio Network
Live stats

There may not be 92,003 people in the Devaney Center for the match on Saturday between #2 Nebraska and #1 Wisconsin, but the magnitude of this match is massive nonetheless. Make no doubt, Devaney will be filled to capacity, as usual, and those fans will sound louder than the 8,500 or so of them that can fit in the volleyball arena.

Nebraska will beat Wisconsin with a full and focused team effort. There will be multiple adjustments through the match as both teams have a variety of ways to win. When Nebraska beat Northwestern Wednesday night, they may have needed just tough serving and accurate passing. When Nebraska aims to beat Wisconsin they will need every facet of their game plan to work and work well.

Passing is step one. Wisconsin has the ability to serve tough enough to beat a team on the service line alone. Huskers must pass well to run a fast and varied offense against a very big and skilled block.

Serving is step two. Wisconsin has many offensive weapons. In order to reduce or slow those weapons, servers need to challenge passers. Wisconsin is also vulnerable in the serve receive passing formation. Just like Nebraska, the Badgers use four primary passers, Sarah Franklin, Julia Orzol, Temi Thomas-Ailara and Gulce Guctekin.

Nebraska will target Guctekin because she is prone to the most passing mistakes and draws the setter off the net. Huskers will also target Franklin and Thomas-Ailara in order to overload them while they are in the front row. Forcing the outside hitter to consistently pass and then get into position to hit increases the likelihood that she makes an error in one of the skills.

Attacking is step three. The Husker attackers will have large blocks in front of them all game. Hitters must hit off of the block, and around it, while still hitting aggressive balls. Setter Bergen Reilly will work to give each Nebraska hitter a good opportunity to score. Expect Reilly to earn some sneak kills herself.

Defense is step four. Defense includes both blocking at the net and floor defense. These two skills work together, and when done well they compliment each other. Wisconsin runs a very balanced offense. They set all six of their hitters and each is effective. They will, however, set Franklin more than the others.

She is 6’4’’ outside hitter with a wide variety of shots. She averages 3.77 kills per set. She does that by hitting hard, hitting short, hitting off blocker’s hands and by tipping. The Husker defense has to be ready for all of it.

This match has the potential to go to five sets. The Husker’s ability to find a way to win has served them well already this season. They will need to access that focus multiple times in this match as Wisconsin adjusts strategy. Beating the Badgers requires waves of high execution in passing, serving, offense and defense. No one facet alone can beat a team like this, so the Huskers need every part of their game for two hours for the win. GBR!

Nebraska (18-0, B1G 9-0)

#2 Bergen Reilly 6’1’’ FR Setter
#5 Bekka Allick 6’4’’ SO MB
#6 Laney Choboy 5’3’’ FR DS/L
#7 Maisie Boesiger 5’6’’ SO DS/L
#8 Lexi Rodriguez 5’5’’ JR DS/L
#9 Kennedi Orr 6’0’’ JR Setter
#10 Caroline Jurevicius 6’2‘‘ FR OH
#11 Hayden Kubik 6’2’’ SO OH
#13 Merritt Beason 6’4’’ JR OH
#14 Ally Batenhorst 6’5’’ JR OH
#15 Andi Jackson 6’3‘‘ FR MB
#22 Lindsay Krause 6’4’’ JR OH
#27 Harper Murray 6’2’’ FR OH
#44 Maggie Mendelson 6’5’’ SO MB

#1 Wisconsin (18-0, B1G 9-0)
#6 MJ Hammill 6’2’’ SR Setter
#9 CC Crawford 6’3’’ SR MB
#10 Devyn Robinson 6’2’’ SR MB/RS
#11 Izzy Ashburn 5’11’’ GR Setter
#12 Temi Thomas-Ailara 6’2’’ GR OH
#13 Sarah Franklin 6’4’’ SR OH
#14 Anna Smrek 6’9’’ JR MB/RS
#21 Gulce Guctekin 5’5’’ SO Libero
#22 Julia Orzol 6’0’’ JR OH/Libero
#52 Carter Booth 6’7’’ SO MB