This week’s column is dedicated to my Great Grandma Dot. She passed away last week at age 101. She was a huge Nebraska volleyball fan and read every edition of The Lo-Down. – LW
After Saturday’s annual, and impressive, Red-White scrimmage, I think we can all agree that there will be a few key components to look out for this upcoming season. From who will win the starting position on the outside, to a potential surprising switch on the right side, to who will be the chosen one to come in as a serving sub and to play back-row defense, I will highlight everything that I believe will be important to keep your eye on in this week’s Lo-Down.
Let’s start with the outside position, since that is the hottest topic in the Nebraska volleyball world at the moment. Lexi Sun, Madi Kubik and Capri Davis all put on noteworthy performances during Saturday’s scrimmage, but it was Capri who took the spotlight tallying 18 kills in three sets. However, it was also Capri who didn’t receive the start on the Red side, which is considered the “A side” or the starters.
Most of us focus on who can terminate on the pins. The outside position is so much more than that. You have to factor in serving, back-row defense, blocking and, most importantly, passing. Based on all of those skills, my prediction is that Sun and Kubik will be your starting outsides for the majority of the season. Lexi and Madi are well rounded in all of those skills and put up the best statistics in all of those areas, which earns them the right to be on the court all six rotations. Regardless, with depth at the outside position, Coach Cook will have a hard time keeping all three players happy with playing time.
That brings me to the right-side debate. Last year we saw Nebraska struggle in a couple rotations, the worst being rotation one. Why you ask? Well, Jazz Sweet (the current right side) has to pull back and pass at times in rotation one and then has to attack on the left side. One of the most difficult things to perfect is a left-handed player attacking from the left side. Not only does the set have to be perfect, but the attacker has to be lined up perfectly. This is why you hardly ever see left handed players on the left side. With that being said, Nebraska had a hard time getting out of this rotation. This is also why we saw Capri come in for Jazz for a rotation last year. My solution here would be to put Capri on the right side.
I know it is risky, since she hasn’t played on the right consistently, but she is one of the best blockers on the team, so you would have her blocking against opposing team’s outside attackers. She can put the ball away on the right, we saw it last year in matches and I have already seen it in practices this year. She also would solve the problem in rotation one by not having a lefty on the left side. Bottom line though, we all saw her performance in the scrimmage on Saturday, so the Huskers need to find a way to get her on the court.
The last question mark I will focus on is who will be coming in for the right side as a serving sub to play back-row defense and to be situated in the passing rotation? Kenzie Knuckles, in my opinion, has won the libero position, so I don’t believe that is changing before the opener against Creighton. That leaves Megan Miller and Hayley Densberger, who we saw this past weekend, but it also includes Chen Abramovich and Emma Gabel. Since Chen and Emma are both out with injuries, I am assuming they won’t see any playing time for the remainder of the season.
However, Hayley and Megan both put on inspiring performances and both have had a solid preseason, so how do you choose who to play? My guess here is that it will again be another year of yo-yoing between the two. Whoever can put their serve in the court, dig in right back and put passes on top of Nicklin’s head will receive playing time. Similar to last year, I think some weeks that will be Megan and other weeks it will be Hayley. For this Friday though, my money is on Megan Miller.
Those would be my top three suggestions of what to keep your eye on this season, but there is always more. Nicklin Hames has tweaked her setting form, which I believe has turned her into a different player. Lexi Sun is finally healthy, so we will get to witness her throughout an entire season, start to finish. And of course, Coach Cook received a hip replacement in the off season, so he looks like he is about 15 years younger when he comes out of his seat on the bench. Bring your glasses, contacts or binoculars (if you are in standing room only seating) because this year will be one worth watching.