The Huskers had a close call over the weekend, finding a way to keep their record clean with a comeback win over San Diego. Coach John Cook said he’s hoping that experience will up the urgency in practice moving forward, especially with Stanford coming to town next week and with Big Ten play right around the corner.
“I think our team realizes what they have to work on and what they have to clean up,” Cook said. “It was pretty evident this weekend where we have to get better. Part of it was nerves and so on. We didn’t serve great, we didn’t pass great, we didn’t ball-handle great. It’s on the road. But fourth, fifth games we played great. So new we have to start from the beginning.”
Cook said the Huskers have to find a way to cut down on their errors and play more consistently. Against San Diego, the Huskers hit .134 with 13 attack errors in the first two sets. In the last three, they hit .333 with just eight errors including none in the fifth set.
Through two weekends of play, the Huskers are 12th in the Big Ten in hitting percentage at .231, ahead of only Maryland and Rutgers. The Huskers are still 4-0 though in large part because of their defense as they are second behind only Penn State in opponent hitting percentage at .132. The Huskers and Nittany Lions are the only teams in the conference who have not yet lost a match.
>> Junior middle blocker and co-captain Lauren Stivrins had an uncharacteristic showing against Arizona, finishing with as many errors (six) as kills on 19 swings. She also had a service error and only recorded three blocks in four sets.
Stivrins bounced back in a big way against San Diego on Saturday, however. She finished with 14 kills on .393 hitting and eight blocks. She only misfired three times on 28 attempts. In the fifth set, Stivrins stepped up with four kills on six swings.
“Lauren is Lauren: she’s big-time,” Cook said. “I told her before game five, I said ‘You have to take over this match.’ I think she had three kills and a couple blocks. I can’t remember if she served in the fifth, but maybe it was in game four she had a really good serving run. She’s one of the players that have to step up when we need them to.”
Stivrins is a part-time server at this point as junior defensive specialist Hayley Densberger often subs in for her to serve, but that’s an area of Stivrins’ game that she’s been working on over the past few years. Cook said it’s a feel thing for him as to how he handles that spot.
“Whoever’s serve looks the best,” Cook said. “Whoever’s thumping that thing. I watch in practice and I have a feel, and then when they get in the match I can tell whether they’re thumping it or not.”
>> Freshman Kenzie Knuckles has a lot on her plate as Nebraska’s libero, especially considering she didn’t play that position in high school. One of the roles that position includes is acting as the team’s second setter when Nicklin Hames digs a ball, and Knuckles has been up and down in that area. Cook said the Huskers spent a lot of time out of system against San Diego.
“Some days good, some bad,” Cook said. “She’s got to become way more consistent. Nicklin had 17 digs, so there’s 17 setting opportunities … That’s why Kenzie’s so valuable and she missed some this weekend. It’s a work in progress and we train it every day.”
Knuckles finished with six assists during that match.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.