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16 Teams Remain in the NCAA Volleyball Tournament: Nebraska vs Georgia Tech

This Sweet 16 round is a home match for the first time in six years

#1 Nebraska (30-1) vs Georgia Tech (24-6)
When: Thursday, December 7, 2023, 1:00 pm (CT)
Where: Lincoln, NE in The Bob Devaney Center
Stream: ESPN2
Radio: Husker Radio Network
Live stats

Let’s keep this simple; Merritt Beason responds to reporters questions about how Nebraska will handle the various components of Georgia Tech’s game, “it’s volleyball, we play it everyday”. Lexi Rodriguez sat next to Beason and said “at the end of the day, it just comes down to how we play”.

Clearly the Husker co-captains are focused inward toward their own team performance, as they should. You and I, let’s talk about the Yellow Jackets and what they will try to do to beat the Huskers.

Georgia Tech finished the ACC schedule with a 13-5 record and in 4th place in the conference behind Pitt, Florida State and Louisville. They have impressive wins over Penn State, Ohio State (twice) and Louisville. They also have a loss to Louisville as well as two losses to Pitt.

The Yellow Jackets beat South Alabama 3-1 in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament and beat Florida in a five set thriller in the second round. The score in set five ended at 16-14. Watch the highlight video of this match.

They run a 6-2 offense with six hitters and two setters. There are always three hitters in the front row and the setter is always in the backrow. This offense leads to a dynamic attack but can leave the floor defense weakened.

Georgia Tech has three hard hitting pin hitters; Tamara Otene, Biana Bertolino and Larissa Mendez. All three are international players from New Zealand, Argentina and Brazil respectively. Otene and Bertolino play back row as well as front and they are good back row attackers. This means that there are always three hitters front row ready to attack and a fourth attack option in the back row.

Nebraska blockers will need discipline to wait for the set to be made before they move and then quick feet to get all the way to the hitting option once it is set. Husker blockers require strong shoulders and hands as the Yellow Jacket attackers swing hard at the block. The good news is the harder they hit (a well formed block) the harder it comes back at them. Look forward to seeing blocked balls hit the floor fast and hard.

Georgia Tech is vulnerable in their serve receive pattern. Since Otene and Bertolino play backrow they are also in the serve reception pattern. They will be the main target for Nebraska serves. They typically make an error or two per match but even when it isn’t an error their passes are off the net.

The two setters, Isabella D’Amico (senior) and Heloise Soares (freshmen), do not set the middles often, just 7% of the time. Part of the reason they don’t set the middle often is the passes off the net from Otene or Bertolino. The other reason the middles aren’t set often is they don’t always connect well. Two setters and six hitters makes a lot of possible combinations and the setter-hitter timing can be hard to find.

When they do get set, the middles do a nice job of moving around and forcing the opposing blockers to move with them. The pace and height of the ball from each setter is slightly different and leads to hitter errors.

All three players that spend time in the middle blocker position transferred in to Georgia Tech; DeAndra Pierce came from Texas, Liv Mogridge transferred from North Carolina and Afedo Manyang previously played for TCU. The fourth transfer on the Yellow Jacket squad is Otene. She previously played for Illinois State.

Coach Cook and his squad spent the week getting slightly better. This idea of improvement in increments is consistent with the message the coaching staff talked about through the entire season. Cook said “this team loves to train”. He doesn't have to motivate them prior to practice because they want to come in and work hard everyday.

Coach Cook says this team is better than it was three months ago and better than it was one month ago. He has been pushed as a coach to find ways to make a drill more challenging for them so that they must be better than the day before.

So like Beason said “it’s volleyball, we play it everyday”. On this day, they play to be one of eight teams remaining. They will do that and likely in three sets. GBR!

#1 Nebraska (30-1)
#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

Georgia Tech (24-6)
#0 Liv Mogridge 6’4’’ SO MB
#1 DeAndra Pierce 6’1’’ JR MB
#4 Lauren Sanden 5’9’’ JR DS
#5 Biana Bertolino 6’0’’ JR OH
#7 Elizabeth Patterson 5’9’’ SR DS
#8 Paolo PImentel 5’6’’ SR Libero
#9 Tamara Otene 6’0’’ SR OH
#10 Isabella D’Amico 6’0’’ SR Setter
#11 Larissa Mendez 6’2’’ FR OH
#13 Heloise Soares 5’11” FR Setter
#23 Afedo Manyang 6’3’’ SR MB

NCAA Tournament Schedule for Thursday December 7th 2023

Creighton vs Louisville 11 am CT ESPN2
Georgia Tech vs Nebraska 1 pm CT ESPN2
Washington State vs Pitt 1:30 pm CT ESPNU
Arkansas vs Kentucky 3:30 pm CT ESPNU
Penn State vs Wisconsin 6 pm CT ESPN2
Tennessee vs Texas 8 pm CT ESPN2
Purdue vs Oregon 8:30 pm CT ESPNU
Arizona State vs Stanford 10:30 pm CT ESPNU