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NCAA Volleyball Regional Finals: Nebraska vs Arkansas

Husker volleyball is on fire as they move through the NCAA tournament

Volleyball Day in Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

Nebraska (31-1) vs Arkansas (28-5)
When: Saturday, December 9, 2023, 5:00 pm (CT)
Where: Lincoln, NE in The Bob Devaney Center
Stream: ESPNU

Arkansas is the lowest seeded team remaining in the NCAA Volleyball tournament. As a three seed they upset the two seed Kentucky to reach the Elite 8. They are the only three seed among all one and two seeds remaining. Arkansas doesn’t care. Arkansas is fearless.

While we are talking about caring, Nebraska also doesn’t care that Arkansas is a three seed either. The Husker players and coaches scouted the Razorbacks, prepared for them and will now focus on execution on their side of the net. Coach Cook feels confident that when he and his coaching staff have time to prepare for a team “we can dial it in pretty good”. Here is what they prepared for.

Key Point of the Match #1
Jill Gillen is explosive for Arkansas on the outside. She is a 5’7’’ graduate student who hits the ball a ton and is the emotional leader of the team. She is also excellent from the service line. She dissected the Kentucky serve receive pattern by placing it exactly where she aimed. She has such control of her serve that she can put teams in trouble.

What this means for Nebraska: If Gillen, or any other server, is successfully targeting a location or player, modify the way the serve receive formation looks. Huskers practice shifting or covering different space in the serve receive and should go to a second option quickly if a pattern is not working.

When Gillen is attacking at the net she is going to have different angles than those of the taller hitters. She jumps very well and this will also change the time it takes her to get to maximum height on an attack and how long she hangs. Nebraska blockers must focus on both timing and getting their body into position every time. Gillen will use hands to hit off of if they are not in good position. She is skilled at using hands for tools in her favor.

Key Point of the Match #2
Maggie Cartwright is a 5’11’’ JR on the right side. She is versatile and adds balance to the Hogs offense. She moves around the net and will hit a higher ball in the middles as well as attacking from both the left and right side.

The third primary hitter is Taylor Head, a 5’10’’ Senior outside hitter. There are two middles; one gets set and the other does not. Sania Petties is offensive while Zoi Evans is not. Of the 167 sets made out to Arkansas players against Kentucky, Evans received five of them, only five.

What this means for Nebraska: Always know which middle hitter is front row (this is what they are talking about as they look through the net before the serve). There is a big difference in offensive threat depending on which middle is front row.

Know where Cartwright is and follow her as she moves. Communication between blockers while the ball is live is important to know when she comes around the front of the setter or is shifting to the right side.

Key Point of the Match #3
The Kentucky vs Arkansas match was a slug for slug type match. I do not think either team left anything out on the court. In the end, Arkansas had tougher serving that disrupted Kentucky’s everything. Arkansas played with a lot of guts and confidence, like they had been there before.

This is, however, their program’s first appearance in the final eight teams AND this was the first time EVER beating Kentucky for the Arkansas senior class. There were emotions for sure. This was also the third meeting this season for these programs, Kentucky won the previous two. It is hard to beat a good team three times!

What this means for Nebraska: Arkansas has a deep will to win; just like Nebraska. They will also run into the stands to save a point; all of them. They have a good offensive system which they run very fast because they must. They are smaller than other teams but they are smart, they have fast arm swings and they see the court very well.

When you play a team that sends everything back and really makes you work for points, you can feel frustrated. Don’t. Execute each play with focus on what is happening on the Husker side and know that the game plan will work. This is a four set win for Nebraska. GBR!

#1 Nebraska (31-1)
#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

Arkansas (28-5)
#2 Jada Lawson 5’7’’ JR OH
#3 Sania Petties 6’1’’ JR MB
#7 Taylor Head 5’10’’ SR OH
#10 Jill Gillen 5’7’’ GR OH
#11 Maggie Cartwright 5’11’’ GR OH
#15 Courtney Jackson 5’8’’ JR Libero
#18 Hannah Hogue 5’8’’ JR Setter
#44 Zoi Evans 6’4’’ JR MB

NCAA Tournament Schedule for Saturday December 9th 2023

Louisville vs Pittsburgh 3 pm CT ESPNU
Arkansas vs Nebraska 5 pm CT ESPNU
Oregon vs Wisconsin 7 pm CT ESPNU
Stanford vs Texas 9 pm CT ESPNU