LINCOLN, Neb. – After a somewhat sluggish three-set win at home against Iowa on Wednesday, the still unanimously No. 1 Nebraska volleyball team bounced back for a dominant sweep on the road at Indiana on Saturday.
The Huskers beat the Hoosiers 25-16, 25-16, 25-11 behind 12 kills and .385 hitting by sophomore outside hitter Mikaela Foecke. Nebraska out-hit Indiana 3.65 to .055 and outblocked the Hoosiers nine to two.
“We had a good week,” Coach John Cook said. “We got two nice wins, I thought, and played well at Indiana who was a hot team. Now it comes down to week nine in the Big Ten, Penn State and then back to Iowa. Big matches, a lot on the line and it’s getting to be that time of year where it feel like every match is a championship match.”
With just two weeks left in the regular season, the Huskers have hit the stretch run and will take on perennial power Penn State on Wednesday. With 25 games under their belt, it is all about staying fresh at this point in the year.
“The big challenge is are they recovered and are they fresh, mentally and physically?” Cook said. “That’s the challenge, is how you balance that. So how do you train them but keep them fresh? That’s what I lay awake at night trying to figure out and monitor and manage … Last week we shortened practices, we did yoga one day, we did kind of a meditation thing one day just to let them relax. Those are some things that help you recover mentally and trying to make sure – I don’t want to say that you make it fun, but you continue to challenge them and compete; that’s what they like.”
The 15th-ranked Nittany Lions offer a completely different challenge than the Hoosiers did and Cook said he is looking forward to the challenge.
“They’re a fun team to play,” Cook said. “They’re big, physical. I’d rather play teams like that whereas Indiana has these small little outside hitters that are going underneath us and off our elbows. So they’re a fun team to play and you always learn a lot when you play them and they’re always going to have a great game plan so it’s just a fun match and two great programs and two great teams.”
The Huskers went to Penn State on Nov. 4 and pulled out a five-set victory behind 19 kills from Foecke. What is the key to beating Penn State?
“We won some long rallies,” Cook said. “Our left sides had a good night because I think they were daring us to beat them with the left sides a little bit. We made some big plays when we needed to; that’s what you’ve got to do on the road. We got some big serves when we needed them, we won some big rallies, we got a couple blocks and we did a pretty nice job siding out. To beat a team like Penn State, you have to do everything pretty well.”
First serve at the Devaney Center is set for 8 p.m. on Wednesday and the game will be televised on BTN. After playing the Nittany Lions, the Huskers will head to Iowa City for a rematch with the Hawkeyes on Saturday at 8 p.m.
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.