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NCAA Volleyball Tournament Round 1: Nebraska vs Long Island University

Plus: Highlighted games from across the NCAA tournament

NCAA Womens Volleyball: Wisconsin at Nebraska Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

#1 Nebraska (28-1) vs Long Island University (13-18)
When: Friday, December 1, 2023, 7:00 pm (CT)
Where: Lincoln, NE Devaney Center
Stream: ESPN+
Radio: Husker Radio Network
Live stats

This is the final sprint, six matches to the goal, the championship. The Big Ten season lasts 10 weeks and the NCAA Tournament will only take three. Each match the teams get better and the ante goes up.

Teams that are most rested and able to play well in back to back matches will find success. Teams also must have a deep belief in themselves, no falter, no doubt. Each match will be the best play from the opponent. Everyone is playing to survive and will come to battle. Nebraska’s first opponent is Long Island University.

Long Island University is located in on a 330 acre campus in Brooklyn, NY overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge. That’s a decent size farm property in Nebraska. There are just over 15,000 students and 36 NCAA athletic teams; one of which is the volleyball team coming to Nebraska’s Devaney Center for a Friday match with the Huskers.

LIU is in the Northeast Conference (NEC) and they attempt to intimidate their opponents with their shark mascot. Do sharks like corn???

Amable Martinez is in his first year as a head coach of LIU. He came from St Francis Brooklyn College another NEC team and brought four of his current starters with him; Alasha Colon, Camelia Melendez, Selina Koc and Cristal Paulino Rubel.

In the week leading up to the match with LIU, the Nebraska coaching staff is reminding their players that they don’t have do anything more than they already have. They don’t have to try harder or be more precise, they simply must play Nebraska volleyball.

They practice and train all year, just like how they want to perform. Sometimes they fall short of those performance goals. Tournament time means executing the game plan, just like you have all season.

Playing a team outside the Big Ten Conference and outside the normal power teams in D1 volleyball means that Nebraska will get a different look from LIU. Both of the LIU outside hitters will get a ton of sets. There are 20 players on the Shark’s roster but 57% of the swings come from Camelia Melendez and Amaris Smith, the 5’11’’ and 6’1’’ outside hitters.

LIU brings height in some positions, but is generally shorter than Nebraska opponents. While this can play to Husker advantage, it is not a sure bet to victory. Smaller outside hitters generally hit lower on blockers and have different angles than, say, 6’4’’ Sarah Franklin on Wisconsin.

Nebraska defense needs to be a solid wall on the block and be ready to adjust to different hitting angles on floor defense. The Shark hitters haven’t faced a block this large in their season, so tips will come if they don’t see a clear shot.

LIU serves aggressively and was able to earn 1.65 aces per set this season. Nebraska only averages 1.19 aces per set (acknowledge the difference in quality of opponents). One of Nebraska’s strengths is passing so they should be able to negate the tough serves with communication and passing technique.

LIU also is aced often so expect NU serves to go to outside hitters Smith and Melendez. Both players are high serve receive error and as we already covered these two carry a large offensive load so giving them a tough serve to pass increases the chance that they make an error.

12 of the Sharks 13 losses came to nonconference opponents. On September 22nd, when LIU began conference play, they were 1-12. They lost six more times in conference play, twice to Sacred Heart during regular conference play, but then came back to beat the then #1 seeded team in the tournament in the conference semi finals.

In the conference finals, #4 LUI beat #2 Fairleigh Dickenson University (FDU) in four sets. FDU represented the conference in the 2022 NCAA tournament. They played Texas in the first round and lost in three sets.

Nebraska will watch the start of the Missouri vs Delaware match that precedes their match before they start warming up. Coaches are also watching match tape on all three team traveling to Lincoln this weekend so they are prepared for LIU as well as the winner of the other opening round match.

Nebraska is able to get any NCAA tournament nerves or over excitement out of their systems in this match. They learn the slightly different protocols that come with NCAA tournament matches. Execution will be at a high level on Friday night and fans can appreciate the superb athletes that play in Devaney in the fall season. This is a three set win for Nebraska. GBR!

#1 Nebraska (28-1)

#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

Long Island University (13-18)

#1 Indira Benitez 5’11’’ FR OPP
#3 Alasha Colon 5’6’’ JR Libero
#7 Rumur Rouille 6’4’’ JR MB/OPP
#9 Jordan MacDonald 5’10’’ JR OH
#11 Amaris Smith 6’1’’ SO OH
#12 Selina Koc 5’11’’ SO Setter
#14 Cristal Paulino Rubel 6’0’’ JR MB/OPP
#19 Camelia Melendez 5’11’’ JR OH
#31 Bria Plante 6’4’’ GR MH/OPP

A win over LIU moves Nebraska to the second round of the NCAA tournament which takes place on Saturday, December 2nd at 7:00 pm (CT) against the winner of the #8 Missouri vs Delaware match.

NCAA Matches to watch
If you are able to watch other first round matches on Thursday or Friday, here are the ones I recommend based on the competitiveness of the match:

Thursday, November 30
Iowa St vs Hawaii - 6:00 pm CT
Texas vs Texas A&M - 6:00 pm CT

Friday, December 1st
TCU vs Florida St. - 4:30 pm CT
James Madison vs Baylor - 3:30 pm CT
Western Michigan vs Auburn - 3:00 pm CT
Utah St vs Minnesota - 4:00 pm CT
Georgia vs Arizona St - 5:30 pm CT

Creighton plays Colgate on Friday, December 1st at 6:30 pm CT in Omaha.
Omaha plays Kansas on Thursday, November 30th at 7 pm CT in Lawrence, KS