Nebraska 0 vs Wisconsin 3- 22-25, 26-28, 25-16
John Cook coached in the UW Fieldhouse years ago but he remembers his teams not always being very good (at least the first season). The Wisconsin team of today is very good and they just proved it. They executed their game plan well; serve tough and attack Nebraska’s cross court.
They served five aces and kept the Nebraska setter, Bergen Reilly, off the net with challenging serves. Since Reily was off the net she was not always able to set the Nebraska middle hitters, Bekka Allick, Andi Jackson and in set three Maggie Mendelson. The three middles combined for 17 attempts and 7 kills. That is a good kill to attempt ratio but it isn’t enough attempts. The middles must be a bigger factor.
Wisconsin’s, Anna Smrek, led all players with 18 kills. The 6’9’’ right side hitter earned kills in critical situations. She was also a factor on the defensive side with her block. She added three blocks to the effort.
Essential to the Badger win was Sarah Franklin; she was phenomenal. She is the best player in the country. Franklin hits shots with angles that defy physics. She earns those kills most often not on well positioned sets but ones off location during a scramble play. The Huskers had no answer for her tonight. She earned 16 kills on 33 swings for a .424 hitting percentage.
Harper Murray and Ally Batenhorst had strong matches for the Huskers. Both outside hitters varied their shots and came through with kills when they were needed. Murray had 15 kills, Batenhorst and Beason had 11 kills each. Nebraska’s hitting percentage as a team was over .100 better than it was in the October 21 match against Wisconsin but the Badgers were over .150 better offensively.
It is noteworthy that Nebraska lost in straight sets. The stat sheet leaves you thinking that this match was not competitive. Not true. Nebraska had chances to win sets one and two. They were error prone late in those sets with net violations and serve receive errors. This inability to elevate play at the critical end of set stage is something we have not seen from this Husker team.
Coach Cook also saw his team as “undisciplined on block and defense”. He talked about his team “chasing things” and commented on how that impacted the rest of the team. Block and floor defense are directly connected. If the blocks plan is to set up on Smrek’s right shoulder to take away the line shot then the floor defenders move to positions that the block DOESN’T take away. Undisciplined means players are not where they planned and other players on your own team are impacted.
Let this match make us better. Wisconsin is the most physical team in the country. Light a fire in the belly, trust the training you have gone through and come to the next training session and match a better player.
Nebraska heads to Minneapolis to play Minnesota Saturday at 8 pm CT. You can watch on BTN/FoxSports.