Nebraska 3 vs Minnesota 0 - 25-23, 25-20, 25-22
The Gophers came out swinging high and hard. For eight points Nebraska struggled to find a response to the aggressive attacks by Minnesota.
But then they did.
They responded with equally aggressive swings. Ally Batenhorst started mixing in smart shots like tips and rolls shots. Merritt Beason pounded a ball through the block and the Devaney crowd erupted. There was a response to the Minnesota attack and it was equal and potentially greater. Nebraska came to play.
The first set was back and forth with each team sending blow for blow at the other. There was a game plan to beat each other and set one was executed at a high level. The hitting percentages were Nebraska .289 and Minnesota .286. Hitters were efficient at earning kills. Gophers had no hitting errors and 13 kills during set one. Nebraska had three errors and 17 kills.
Sets two and three we watched each team string together points. Nebraska struggled in rotation one for the first time this season. This rotation is habitually a challenging rotation but this 2023 squad hasn’t had that struggle.
After the setter serves she has her two pin hitters, Harper Murray and Merritt Beason, hitting on the opposite pin from where they normally hit. This is the cause of the struggle. This is something Nebraska will work on this week in practice.
They will also continue to work on balls passed tight to the net where two players jump to block or push the ball to the other side of the net. It’s called a joust and thus far this season, Nebraska hasn’t faired well with this type of play.
That is it. That’s the practice plan. Get better out of rotation one, improve fundamentals on joust and continue to compete with the fire that you showed tonight. Coach Cook was clearly pleased with the response to the competition that his team demonstrated.
After the match he said “Minnesota stressed us more than any team this season”. He talked about how the Gophers stressed Laney Choboy passing serve and how they stressed the defense with the backrow attack. Then the coach smiled and talked about the hustle play where Harper Murray ran into the scoring table to get a ball and Beason stood ready at the net to win the point.
Coach Cook knows this team can improve and accomplish more, simply because of their want and desire to engage in the high level competition coming at them. When this team is down 21-22 in set one, they respond with guts rather than fear or tentative play. This coupled with the high level of talent on this team is exhilarating.
Nebraska travels to Purdue on Friday and Indiana on Saturday next weekend. This is the first back to back match on the road for the 2023 season. #19 Purdue beat Maryland and Rutgers this weekend. Indiana beat Illinois in four sets then lost to #1 Wisconsin in three.