LINCOLN, Neb. — On Saturday evening, Nebraska volleyball fans got a look at the newest Huskers as the team held its annual Red-White Scrimmage in front of a crowd of 6,720 at the Devaney Center.
Before the match began, the Huskers played a special video and unveiled the 2015 national championship banner in the Devaney Center rafters.
“It’s really cool,” coach john Cook said. “It seems like it was yesterday that all that happened and now we’re already starting the season again. I kind of put it away once that banner came down and we showed the video it was time to move on to 2016. It’s pretty cool.”
For graduate transfer outside hitter Andie Malloy, it was the biggest crowd she’d ever played in front of. However, instead of inspiring nerves, Malloy said she fed off the crowd’s energy and finished with 16 kills and 11 digs while splitting time between the two squads.
“Honestly, I feel like I was a little bit more nervous whenever we had serve and pass whenever there was nobody in there,” Malloy said. “But then it felt more homey and welcoming when I got out there and there were all the people and it was all so supporting and my team really did a great job of making me feel a part of it and everything. It kind of went away like that. Adrenaline kicks in and you just start playing.”
Rather than splitting the teams up equally, Cook chose to put most of the projected starters on the White squad, with the reserves and former Husker Cici Hall and practice player Jake Roberts helping to round out the Red team.
“We play Florida in six, five days so we’ve got to start getting some semblance of rhythm and a lineup and a plan of what we want to do,” Cook said.
The White team swept the Red in three sets (25-15, 25-15, 25-23) before the teams played a fourth to 15 points, which the White also won 15-11. The White squad hit .336 for the match and held the Red to .080.
“I want us to be a little lower error than we were,” Cook said. “We were just high error in serving and attack. We made a couple bone-head errors. I thought our passing on both sides was really good. We did a lot of nice things. We’re just rough a little bit. I think these guys’ most nerve-wracking night of the year is playing in this match. It’s hard because nobody knows who to cheer for. It’s just weird. I thought we got a lot of good work done. Playing that fourth game to 15, I thought there was a little more sense of urgency in that.”
White jumped out to an early lead and cruised in the first set, then closed the second on a 14-4 run after the game was tied at 11-all. Malloy racked up 12 kills on 18 swings without an error before switching to the Red team for the third set.
“I think the big test tonight was Andie and I think Andie showed she belongs here,” Cook said. “She did a really nice job tonight.”
The third set was the most competitive of the night with 12 ties and five lead changes. Red took a 23-21 lead late, but the White responded with a 4-0 run to take the set. A 4-0 run including two kills by sophomore outside hitter Mikaela Foecke in the fourth was enough to create separation and power the White to victory to complete the sweep.
Senior outside hitter Kadie Rolfzen finished with 13 kills, 10 digs and four blocks while Kelly Hunter dished out 44 assists. Junior Sydney Townsend played libero and posted a game-high 14 digs, earning praise form Cook for her play.
The teams combined for 20 team blocks, 13 of which were from the White squad.
“The White team had some really nice blocks, and [redshirt freshman outside hitter] Tiani Reeves had a couple really nice [blocks for the Red team] – she does that in practice, she blocks the slide really well, she does a nice job on that, she gets us all the time,” Cook said. “I thought our blocking was, for the most part, very disciplined for this early in the year. We’ve been working really hard on it and we’re much improved over last year at this time.”
Junior setter Kelly Hunter said the high block totals might also have had a bit to do with the team’s excitement to be back on the court in front of the fans.
“I think Nebraska as a team in general, we pride ourselves in blocking, so I think we work really hard on that,” Hunter said. “But I think also it’s our first game, we’re coming out, we’re trying to swing as hard as we can. Of course we want to get those big kills. So I think it’s a little bit of we really are getting better at blocking an some small hitting errors trying to go too hard.”
Junior middle blocker Briana Holman, who sat out last season after transferring from LSU, led the way with nine blocks including one solo stuff. Holman was an All-American with the Tigers, but Cook said she arrived in Lincoln as more of an athlete than a refined player on defense and has worked hard to polish her game over the last year.
“It’s night and day,” Cook said. “Now she has a plan, she’s understanding scheme, she’s understanding tendencies, and combine that with her athletic ability, that makes it really nice. When she got here she tried to be an athlete and block balls and had no idea how to play within a system or with other blockers and things like that. That was good to see that.”
The season begins on Friday as the Huskers will travel to Eugene, Oregon, to take on the Florida Gators and Texas Longhorns in the VERT Challenge.
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.