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Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach John Cook huddles with the volleyball team during timeout
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Nebraska Falls to Ohio State, Splits Weekend Series with Buckeyes

March 13, 2021

What is there even to say?

After defeating No. 11 Ohio State in five sets on Friday, the Buckeyes returned the favor and took down No. 4 Nebraska in five sets on Saturday. It was a thrilling weekend of volleyball in Lincoln, Nebraska, of course, even if Husker fans probably would have preferred a sweep for the weekend.

Nebraska had its chances too, especially in the fifth set. There was a moment that the Huskers got ahead, 11-10, before the Buckeyes called a timeout to reset. The Huskers even reached 13-12 with a kill from Lauren Stivrins, but the Buckeyes responded by winning the final three rallies with two kills and a hitting error by the Huskers.

“We had several chances to break away in the fifth set,” Cook said post-game. “We got them out of system and we let them bounce balls on us. We let [Emily] Londot get two tips down. We didn’t cover a couple of our hitters.

“Ohio State played like they wanted to win and we played like we were hoping to win. Last night we were playing like we wanted to win and tonight I didn’t feel that.”

Londot, the Ohio State freshman outside hitter who had 23 kills on Friday night, shined once again on Saturday. She had 22 kills in the Buckeyes’ win and played a big part in Ohio State’s hitting. The Buckeyes ended the night hitting .280, which frustrated Cook. He noted Vanja Bukilic—who had 16 kills herself—and that .280 hitting when reflecting on what happened.

From his perspective, Nebraska simply didn’t put the pressure on Ohio State and that .280 hitting for the Buckeyes proved it.

As for Nebraska’s hitting, Lexi Sun led the Huskers with 22 kills. Stivrins followed with 16. The Huskers ended the match hitting .244.

What happened on Saturday that was so different from Friday?

“I think we kind of just lost focus,” Sun said. “I think throughout the five games, we went up and down in our focus and our energy and I think that showed in the fourth set.”

Nebraska had seven errors in the fourth set, which gave Ohio State a 10-4 advantage before the Huskers called timeout. The team battled, cutting the deficit at moments throughout but ultimately couldn’t overcome Ohio State. Nebraska hit only .083 in the fourth set with 11 kills and eight errors.

The Huskers found some momentum in the fifth set, as mentioned, but it wasn’t consistent.

“I think we had a few plays of greatness and then we took a step back and it went back and forth,” Sun said. “I think for us it’s about figuring out how to maintain and be consistent with that focus.”

Cook hopes this is a lesson for his team. The Huskers head to Iowa City to face the Iowa Hawkeyes on Wednesday at 7 p.m. CT. The quick turnaround won’t leave Nebraska much time to sort things out, but Cook hopes his team can figure it out in time.

“I don’t know. It’s a learning thing for them,” Cook said. “We have to see how they respond. I think we play again Wednesday and we’ll have to see how they come out this week. I hope they understand how hard they’ll have to play and how disciplined they’ll have to play and that they’ll have to play for every point.”

Some of the adjustments Nebraska will need to make include its communication and serving. Cook said once again (like he did Friday) that the Huskers need to improve on attacking with their serve. Ohio State served tough Saturday night, from what Cook saw, and that put pressure on the Huskers.

The other thing is that the right side is still not producing at the level Cook wants. The right side added six kills Saturday night but it wasn’t enough to take some of the pressure of Stivrins, Sun and Madi Kubik.

You could hear the frustration in Cook’s voice post-game. He wants his team to play for every point, but said the team “hasn’t developed that yet.”

There’s plenty to figure out before Wednesday. For now, Cook couldn’t get over that fifth set. What is there even to say?

“I’m disappointed we lost 15-13 at home and let a team hit .280,” Cook said. “Defense is effort, it’s attacking, it’s disciplined so I’m pretty disappointed we didn’t execute better tonight.

“We’ll use it as a learning moment and hopefully failure will be fuel for these guys. I have no idea, but I hope that happens. I know the coaches will use it for fuel.”

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