#1 University of Nebraska (21-0) vs. #16 Penn State University (15-6)
After the match:
The B1G Story: Nebraska Volleyball airs at 9:30 pm (CDT) November 3rd on BTN
Penn State is fresh off a close call, a back and forth duel that went to the last play and ultimately a loss to Michigan State last weekend. It was emotional at the end of that match, for both teams. It was also an upset, meaning we can expect that the The Nittany Lions had a fiery week of practice, and took out their frustration on a few volleyballs. The probably amped up Lions now welcome Nebraska to Happy Valley, PA where they no doubt intend to continue release their frustration on the #1 team in the land.
Nebraska needs nothing more than solid play to stomp out the fire that PSU has in the belly right now, but withstanding the initial burst could take something extra.
Now, you are probably thinking of the October 14th match where Nebraska swept Penn State in three sets (25-22, 25-22, 25-19). And yes, that was a convincing win and it didn’t leave anyone thinking that Penn State is the 16th best team in the country. But believe me, they are. They have the people, talent, experience and desire to win. They haven’t put it all together yet, but one of these days, they will. And it might be against Nebraska.
There are not many weaknesses on this PSU team:
Mac Podraza- top setter, All American
Gillian Grimes- excellent libero
Jess Mruzik- All American outside hitter
Allie Holland- All Big Ten middle hitter
Taylor Trammell- Tough middle, right on the cusp of being a top-tier middle
One piece of the Nittany Lion game plan stands out, and it is the reason they are underachieving their full ability; they rely a ton on outside hitter Jess Mruzik. They have offensive weapons all along the net and a setter, Podraza, who can set them all but Mruzik receives 34% of the sets. That is an unbalanced offense and opposing teams can prepare for and defend against that.
So, Nebraska did just that; they prepare for the outside attack. Huskers shut down Mruzik in October. She had 55 swings, 12 kills and 8 errors. Huskers had 16 blocks as a team. They knew where they need to be to block her, and that led to Mruzik errors. She was simply out gunned. Nebraska has a great block against anybody, but if they know where the set is going they will snuff your game plan out completely.
But, if the Nittany Lions can figure out how to activate more of those weapons, get a few more players into the regular flow of the offense, their talent will come through and make the Husker’s job a lot tougher. And a bad loss to Michigan State just might have been catalyst to cause them to re-think their team. Who knows? But, in the event this week of practice has caused PSU to change course, here’s what we’ll need to do.
Nebraska needs defensive digs. In October, they beat Penn State by out digging them 47-42 during the last meeting. The block at the net and the digs on the floor are suffocating for offensive systems. Those two elements of the Husker game plan break teams down.
When you couple that dynamic defense with aggressive serving (low error), Nebraska comes out on top almost all the time. It was also helpful in that last match against Penn State that Nebraska had ZERO serve receive errors, and that they were never aced; that gives them a shot to run the offense at the opposition every time. Huge!
There is one more glaring fact about this match that could make this outcome different. Lindsay Krause was lights out against PSU, hitting .300 with 13 kills tying for the team high. She will be on the sidelines this time, where she has been with an injury since practice the week after playing PSU.
Ally Batenhorst has played the second outside hitter position in her place and done great. Nebraska beat Wisconsin without Krause, but her absence on the court reduces the depth of this team and therefore the room for error.
#1 Nebraska (21-0, B1G 12-0)
#2 Bergen Reilly 6’1” FR S
#5 Bekka Allick 6’4” SO MB
#6 Laney Choboy 5’3” FR DS/Libero
#7 Maisie Boesiger 5’6” SO DS/Libero
#8 Lexi Rodriguez 5’5” JR DS/Libero
#9 Kennedi Orr 6’0” JR S
#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
#16 Penn State (15-6, B1G 9-3)
#1 Taylor Trammell 6’2’’ SR MB
#2 Maddy Bilinovic 5’7’’ SR L
#3 Gillian Grimes 5’6’’ SO L
#5 Mac Podraza 6’2’’ SR Setter
#8 Camryn Hannah 6’2’’ SR RS
#9 Jess Mruzik 6’1’’ SR OH
#10 Anjelina Starck 6’2’’ JR OH
#17 Zoe Wetherington 6’2’’ SR OH
#19 Alexa Markley 6’2’’ SO OH
#20 Allie Holland 6’3’’ SR MB