The Huskers had their fun on Monday; the rest of the week is all business as No. 4 Nebraska looks to stay atop the Big Ten Standings with two matches against unranked teams.
“We’ve got a tough match tomorrow against Indiana,” Coach John Cook said on Tuesday. “They’ve had some great wins this year. They have a winning record in the Big Ten. They’ve got a couple of jump servers which you guys haven’t seen, so that’ll be different. We’ve got to prepare for that. And then we go on the road to Northwestern which will be another very tough match. I think they’ve beaten three ranked teams including Minnesota. So another challenging week.
“As I tell the team, the ante goes up each week. We’re in week seven. We have eight matches left, five home matches. We better cherish every home match we have left just because we haven’t had that many in Big Ten so far and to have five at this point in the year will feel pretty good. We’ve got to embrace and enjoy those opportunities to play in Devaney.”
Seven of Nebraska last 10 matches have been on the road. The Huskers will have to travel again this weekend, but they’re grateful to be staying home for the midweek match against the Hoosiers.
“Especially with our past three weeks, it felt like we’re never home,” Lexi Rodriguez said. “I just remember during the game [against Maryland on Sunday] Madi [Kubik] and I were like ‘Oh, it just feel so good to be back home playing in front of Bob.’ I don’t think we took it for granted but I think we’re going to really enjoy being at home and we’re going to really try to get a top-four seed so we can play as many games at home as we can.”
Nebraska is far and away the best team in the Big Ten in serve receive when it comes to not getting aced, surrendering just 0.58 per set. Wisconsin is in second place at 0.82 per set. A week ago, the Badgers aced Nebraska six times and kept the Huskers off balance all match long in their meeting last week. Cook said the film study after that loss wasn’t fun.
“For me, it wasn’t great,” Cook said. “I was pretty disappointed because we didn’t trust our fundamentals and we broke down and and we didn’t get on to the next point very well. So there are teaching moments in that. It’s painful to watch.”
Nebraska bounced back from that Wisconsin loss to hold Maryland, the Big Ten’s leader in aces, without one in a 3-0 sweep last Saturday. Now they’ll face No. 2 in Indiana (13-11, 6-6 Big Ten) who is averaging 1.79 aces per set, and as Cook said, they’ll see a couple of jump servers in the lineup on Wednesday, which will present a unique challenge.
“We haven’t seen any jump servers, so we’ve got to prepare for it,” Cook said. “But we’ll see. It depends how hot they are and how they’re going and how they handle the Devaney crowd and all that. Jump serve is one of those things where you can be in a great rhythm and then you can miss every one. Kashauna Williams from Penn State was jump serving, but she missed a couple. You live on the fine line.”
Cook said there aren’t a lot of players using the jump serve any more in part because it adds a lot of wear and tear and extra stress on the server’s legs.
“Typically in the women’s game they can’t hit it hard enough, but Indiana has two players that hit it hard enough,” Cook said. “They found two that can do it; one’s a lefty, so go back to Micha Hancock, who was the last, really, big jump server that we played against, and she was a lefty, so it comes at a different angle. So it’s pretty rare to see jump-servers these days.”
Indiana brings the heat from the service line, but the Hoosiers have struggled to terminate this season as they are hitting .200, 12th in the conference. Mady Saris is leading the way with 3.69 kills per set but is hitting just .196.
First serve at the Devaney Center is set for 8 p.m. CT on Wednesday on Big Ten Network.
The Huskers will hit the road again this weekend for a rematch with Northwestern on Sunday. The Huskers swept the Wildcats, who received a few votes in this week’s AVCA Coaches Poll, in Lincoln on Oct. 16.
“They’re physical, and they didn’t quit at all during defense,” Bekka Allick said. “We were swinging high, trying to chip off their block, and I think they knew that because you could tell that middle back was a couple steps back from usually where the typically middle back starts. So I think just prepared to have long rallies, stay scrappy, stay resilient and just keep at our pace. Don’t feel rushed or slow down if Northwestern isn’t where they’re usually at.”
Northwestern is second in the Big Ten in hitting (.259), kills (14.01) and digs (14.69 per set). Senior outside hitter Temi Thomas-Ailara is leading the offense with 4.21 kills per set on .267 hitting. Freshman Sienna Noordermeer has started the last six matches at setter (including the first match against Nebraska) and is averaging 11.38 assists per set. She snapped Bekka Allick’s streak of Big Ten Freshman of the Week awards at two by taking home the honor herself on Monday.
Former Husker Megan Miller also took home a weekly conference award on Monday as the Big Ten named her Defensive Player of the Week. She’s leading the Wildcats with 4.29 digs per set, second in the conference.
First serve in Evanston is set for 1 p.m. on Sunday and fans can stream the game on Big Ten Plus.
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.