Nebraska 3 vs Northwestern 1 - 28-26, 24-26, 25-11, 25-20
This was not the match that we were expecting as Northwestern (#79 RPI) hit .306 in set one and then took set two from #1 Nebraska. Andi Jackson said after the match that “we know we are going to get everyone’s best shot and we just have to play Husker volleyball”
Nebraska had trouble with Northwestern’s tips and rolls. The Wildcats stayed close in all four sets with the exception of set three. They stayed in each set by tipping in the middle of the court, hitting down the line and playing lots of defense. Northwestern’s libero, Ellee Stinson, had a great match and was a big reason the Wildcats stayed so many points and sets.
Nebraska responded to the pressure by Northwestern specifically in set one. Late in the set the points went back and forth but Huskers were low error late in the set which proved to be the difference. Nebraska took set one with extra points, 28-26.
While the set one win gave Nebraska momentum coming into the second set, it didn’t last the whole set through. Huskers led by six early but the Wildcats stayed close. Nebraska called a timeout at 11-13. The score never separated by more than two after this timeout but it looked as though Coach Cook chose to have his team play through the challenges and didn’t call another timeout. Ultimately, Nebraska lost this set 24-26.
Nebraska adjusted in game three and began to block Northwestern’s line shot. Northwestern clearly came into the match with a game plan to attack this position in the Husker defense. This adjustment, while late in set three, is an example of a skill that teams must execute in the NCAA tournament. Adjusting to what another team is doing to beat you mid match is essential.
Coach Cook saw the team in practice earlier today and thought “we are pretty casual today”. This observation gave him concern for the match tonight and he thought it was the reason that the defense wasn’t picking up digs, “defense is focus and effort and energy, and if you are not focused, the ball finds you”. Nebraska had 40 digs in a four set match. That is an average of three less digs per set than the Huskers have had all season.
The offense was spread and all five hitters contributed tonight. Merritt Beason and Harper Murray had 13 kills while Bekka Allick and Ally Batenhorst had 11 and 10 kills respectively. Jackson had 8 kills and 6 blocks. Allick also contributed 6 blocks.
The Nebraska’s middles, Allick and Jackson, were key to the win tonight both in their offense and blocking. Wildcat middles were highly effective early in the match and it took concerted effort by the Husker middles to slow them down.
This balanced offense was a real positive for Nebraska. While Beason is impressive and capable of carrying the team, it is a much more stable strategy to rely on all offensive player for kills. While playing Rutgers, for example, Beason had 40 swings and Nebraska became predictable. Against better blocking teams, there needs to be movement along the net to force the opposing defense to move.
Kennedi Orr served for the first two sets tonight, but after two misses and a visible frustrated Coach Cook, Masie Boesiger came in to serve for sets three and four. Boesiger was effective serving as Nebraska went on two different runs while she was serving.
Next up for Nebraska is Illinois at home on Sunday, November 12th at 2:00 pm CST. This is the first match up of the season for these two teams. Illinois is 13-11 overall and 8-6 in conference. Illinois has hit a stride recently and stands in 6th place in the Big Ten.