clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Best Deal this Black Friday is Volleyball: #1 Nebraska vs. #5 Wisconsin

Scott Bruhn

#1 Nebraska (27-0, B1G 18-0) vs #5 Wisconsin (24-3, B1G 15-3)
When: Friday, November 24, 2023, 3:00 pm (CT)
Where: Madison, WI
Video: BTN/FoxSports
Radio: Husker Radio Network
Live stats

The overarching goal is to win two matches this weekend, but the focus is to be 2% better than the last time. Improving incrementally, just a bit, allows players to focus on the ball contact right in front of them and not let the magnitude of a match or season overwhelm them.

Wisconsin is beatable. This was in doubt in October, but now we’ve seen the mighty Badgers go down three times during conference play. That said, beating them requires an excellent match on multiples levels of the game, executed in a rowdy Badgers UW Field House. 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.

Coach Cook’s mindset late in this season is, “the game has no memory” and he spoke to his team over the course of this undefeated season about remembering “the game doesn’t know who is suppose to win”. Nebraska repeatedly stepped on the court and played like they were supposed to win.

Nebraska beat Wisconsin in October by a combined total of seven points. The sets Nebraska won were 25-22, 26-24 and 15-13. This is a very slim margin of victory. Each point matters, so being 2% better than the last time is vital.

We talk volleyball on The Five Heart Podcast this week.

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. Nebraska passed exceptionally well in the last meeting with Wisconsin. They were never aced.

The Huskers beat the Badgers in October in large part behind the strength of their serve receive passing and tough (also low error) serving. Serve and pass; coaches always talk about winning the serve and pass game; Nebraska won serve and pass in October.

They did not win the attack game, 44 errors, 69 kills, hitting .130.
They didn’t win the block match; 12 blocks to Wisconsin’s 36.
Nebraska did out dig Wisconsin with 74 to 65 in the defensive department.

Nebraska won behind a serve receive passing efficiency that had zero errors and many passes on top of, or very close to, Bergen Reilly’s head. This means the offense can run and run fast. As a team, Huskers passed with 81.6% efficiency compare to 61.5% for Wisconsin. This calculation includes rating good passes, playable passes, and passing errors.

Serving is step two. Coach Cook tells the players to “thump” their serve. He is encouraging them to go after the serve with an offensive mindset. The players do that by really giving it a good hit (“thump”) while also aiming at precise location on the edge court and trying to making it float or drop.

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. Wisconsin blocked Nebraska 36 times in October. This is an area where the Huskers can incrementally improve both to win this match and to be a better tournament team.

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 varied offense. Players hit in different positions on the net and they try to mix up blockers by moving hitters around. They set all six of their hitters and each is effective. They will, however, set Franklin more than the others.

She is a 6’4’’ outside hitter with a wide variety of shots. She averages 4.12 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.

Anna Smrek is a 6’9’’ middle and right side hitter. She missed Wisconsin’s recent matches against Penn State and Purdue with an “upper body injury”. Wisconsin lost both those matches. She played against Indiana in their most recent match and had 10 kills on 12 attempts. Expect to see her play against Nebraska.

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!

#1 Nebraska (27-0, B1G 18-0)

#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

#5 Wisconsin (24-3, B1G 15-3)
#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