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Volleyball: #4 Nebraska Travels to #5 Stanford

Oh, this is going to be great!

Volleyball Day in Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

#4 University of Nebraska (7-0) vs #5 Stanford (6-1)
When: Tuesday, September 12, 2023, 8:00 pm (CT)
Where: Maples Pavilion in Stanford, CA
Video: ESPN
Radio: Husker Radio Network

There are so many parts of this match up to be excited about, I have trouble settling down to write about just one at a time. Deep breath! We’ll start with the facts of the case for this first top 10 match up for the Huskers this season.

Nebraska started the season as #5 on the pre-season NCAA coaches poll and has yet to lose a match, moving up to #4. Stanford started the season #3. They lost to then #8 Florida in three sets and five days later beat then #1 Texas three sets. Stanford currently holds the #5 seed in the country after beating both Ohio State and Minnesota this weekend in three and four sets respectively.

The difference in the five days between Florida and Texas for this Stanford team is a player named Caitie Baird. She is a 6’3’’ outside hitter who did not play the first three matches of the season. When she started in the fourth match against Texas she was ready. She had 12 kills on 24 swings to hit .458 for the match. She made a difference.

Stanford runs a balanced attack to the outside pins. Their three pin hitters each receive about 25% of the sets with a few extra to Kendall Kipp. She gets about 30% of the sets, and she should. Kipp is a 5th year player who is in the conversation for National Player of the Year. She will remind you of Stephanie Samedy, formerly of Minnesota and currently playing pro in Italy. Kipp plays right side and hits an excellent backrow attack.

Kipp averages 3.95 kills per set, adds an average one block per set to score five of the 25 points her team needs to win. She does a ton of work for the Cardinal, although, she doesn’t pass serve so Nebraska can’t target her there and that also means she is always available for an attack. Stanford’s left side hitters, Baird and Elia Rubin, add three kills a piece in an average set.

In the middle, expect to see Sami Francis, 6’6’’ junior, and McKenna Vicini 6’2’’ senior. Francis is the better attacking middle and averages two kills per set and one block. Vicini is a good blocker with just over one block per set (1.33) and she will chip in a kill each set. The Stanford team averages two aces per set. If you are adding these points up you are at 18 of 25 points. This is how Stanford wins. So how does Nebraska defend it and beat it?

The first thing Huskers will do is serve the snot out of the ball. Serving is a strength for Nebraska and serve receive is a weakness of Stanford. Perfect! Top serving target is Baird on the Cardinal side of the net. She is their weakest serve receive passer averaging a .946%; for every 100 or so serves she receives, she makes an error on five of them.

Poor passes won’t change the Stanford offense too much because so many sets go to the outsides anyway, but moving setter, Kami Miner, will at least disrupt the tempo of the ball. Miner has strong hands and makes very few errors. She is often offensive with .65 kills per set herself so moving her around will also limit her opportunity to attack.

Stanford is the tallest opponent Nebraska has faced thus far in the season. When Kipp, 6’5’’ and Francis, 6’6’’, set up a block they are imposing. Nebraska players may not be able to damage as many floor boards as they have in previous matches but Coach Cook believes a big block can “be your friend”.

They need crafty and well placed balls. When Andi Jackson, for example, comes around on the slide she is hitting against 6’3’’ Baird and 6’2’’ Vicini. A hard driven ball straight down comes right back at Nebraska so Jackson will need to show her versatility.

All the Husker hitters will need to show a high level of shot selection and hitting off blockers hands. They practice this against large blocks, so the task is now to apply it in the match. Mental toughness here means after a blocked shot our attackers are still hitting the next shot rather than tipping. Bounce back after getting blocked, and hit a better shot on the next ball.

When Stanford players are attacking, they are able to hit at angles against our block that previous opponents could not. Kipp’s ability to elevate her tall frame gives her great advantage while hitting. She can hit many angles but tends to hit cross court.

This means Bergen Reilly and Merritt Beason are playing disciplined defense in the right back. They must get to their defensive spot and not leave early to set or hit, otherwise it is a kill for Kipp. The middle back defender, Harper Murray or Laney Choboy will also shade to the cross court initially and adjust as the match moves forward.

Kipp will vary her shots, so in match adjustments for the Huskers are essential. A good team executes the game plan their coaching staff creates. A great team executes the game plan and then is able to adjust during the match to what the other team does. This skill is a must for a deep NCAA tournament run.

Playing top teams outside the conference does two positive things; it prepares NU for the B1G and it is also helpful come the NCAA tournament time to have the early season reference point and familiarity with quality teams outside the conference.

These teams will evolve over the season but if Nebraska meets Stanford or another Pac-12 team in the post season, Nebraska players and coaches will use what they learn Tuesday night to prepare for that post season match.

This match goes five sets and Nebraska kicks it up another level to win. They take a step closer to realizing some of the potential they possess, and the potential we have been talking so much about. Stanford has more senior players, so they don’t lay down. They feel the urgency of their final year of college ball for some of them and fight until the end. GBR!

#4 Nebraska (7-0)

#2 Bergen Reilly 6’1’’ FR Setter
#5 Bekka Allick 6’4’’ SO MB
#6 Laney Choboy 5’3’’ FR DS
#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

#5 Stanford (6-1)

#2 Kami Miner 6’0’’ JR Setter
#9 Elena Oglivie 5’10’’ SR Libero
#10 Kendall Kipp 6’5’’ 5th year Opposite
#13 Elia Rubin 6’1’’ SO OH
#14 McKenna Vicini 6’2’’ SR MB
#17 Sami Francis 6’6’’ JR MB
#22 Caitie Baird 6’3’’ SR OH

Come back and watch and listen with us. We will have a game thread going where you can comment!