IU attack error. NU wins the 3rd set 25-11. Congratulations to the Huskers as they hopefully start another win streak with a 3-0 (25-13, 30-28, 25-11) sweep over Indiana. NU is now 15-2 overall and 6-1 in the Big Ten.
That is going to be THE keyword on how successful the remainder of this Husker season is going to be. Last year, with Anika, Syd, and Kelly, the Huskers were more consistent in their serving and passing, and of course with the experience of Hunter’s ability to set. That allowed last year’s team to run off a 19 – 1 record in the B1G, and in reality, a couple of questionable calls at Madison from going 20 – 0. They rarely had an off night, an off set, and certainly not a 0 – 11 run that Minnesota imposed on this year’s team.
This year’s team is more athletic and probably better offensively than last year. But until they can serve and pass with CONSISTENCY, they will always be susceptible to a loss of a set to a mid-level B1G team, or even a match to one of the upper echelon conference teams.
CONSISTENCY was somewhat on display in the 1st set for the home team even though the Hoosiers didn’t put much resistance. The visitors assisted in their own demise with some service, double hit, and hitting errors (nerves?). But the passing game for the Huskers was the real difference and Foecke, Sun, and Sweet were effective on the attack resulting in an easy 25-13 1st set Nebraska win. The middles were also effective, but had very few swings.
INCONSISTENCY crept in on the 2nd set and Indiana made a game of it. The Huskers ran out to a 15-8 lead and looked in control going into a media timeout. It was 17-9 then service errors came at inopportune times and killed any momentum Big Red had during the set. Indiana crawled back into the match with a great job digging and pushed it to a 20 to 20 score. Neither team could create any space between the other and the set, colored by several long rallies, went into deuce. Finally a Sweet kill resulted in the Big Red winning 30 to 28. Again, the middles were largely ignored on offense, and the Indiana block became a force in the set particularly on the outsides toward the end when the teams were in deuce. Fortunately the Nebraska block also came alive after being absent in the first.
CONSISTENCY restored order in the match. A stout Husker block set the tone for the 3rd set, followed by excellent passing resulting in high percentage offensive attacks. That, coupled with a good service game, ended up with the Huskers dominating to a 25-11 win and sweep. The Hoosiers, who gamely kept the ball off the floor in the 2nd, seemed to lose some steam on defense, and the kill percentage spiked up for Nebraska. Sweet and Foecke were the focal points of the offense in the final set, but all the attackers hit a high percentage.
When you look at the core fundamentals, all three phases were much improved over the debacle that was Minnesota. The biggest improvement was in the service game with 7 aces to 6 errors (Maloney had 4 aces), and more important than the ace/error ratio was the constant pressure put on Indiana’s serve receive game. The Huskers had an 11 to 6 block advantage and, of course, were led by Schwarzenbach who had 9 for the match. Most of the blocks were in the 2nd and 3rd sets. And the defense returned to normal and held Indiana to under a 0.100 hitting percentage.
An additional note on the service game. Foecke seems to be a little off her service game STILL. It used to be at least once a match, her serve was nasty enough to get a couple of aces and a long service run. It didn’t happen against Minnesota, and we didn’t see it again tonight. However, Mikaela’s passing game was good for most of the night. She ended up with 9 digs, just missing a double-double.
Offensively, the same issue that plagued the Big Red against Minnesota was evident against the Hoosiers. Foecke (27 swings, 10 kills), Sun (25 swings, 11 kills), and Sweet (23 swings, 11 kills) had solid, if not spectacular games, but for some reason Hames is not setting the middles (15 swings, 5 kills) with the same frequency. This allows the opposition to focus on the block on the outsides. Setting the middles was supposed to be a focus this match, but it didn’t materialize.
Indiana is one of those borderline tournament teams in the conference along with Iowa, Michigan State, and Ohio State. Iowa’s victory over Wisconsin probably gives them a leg up on the others. It may be the first team to 10 victories in conference play that gets the 8th NCAA Tourney spot from the B1G.
Iowa swept Moscow Southwest aka Rutgers in other B1G play. Nationally, the Shorthorns were gored in 4 sets by the Jayhawks at Lawrence. After KU had gone 6 – 4 in the non-conference slate, I had written them off as being in rebuilding mode. Instead, when conference play started, they jacked up their game and were unbeaten heading into the Texas match. So Congratulations Rock Chalk. With 4 losses, UT@SUCKS probably removes itself from the top 4 tournament seed (and home court until the finals) conversation.
Next up for the Fightin’ Schwarzenbachs is the Cult that is Penn State. The Cultist were winners Wednesday over Purdue in 4 sets, but it was a tightly contested match in West Lafayette (26-28, 26-24, 25-22, and 25-21). It was 18 apiece in the 4th before the Lions pulled away to win. Penn State lost 3 All-Americans from last year (2 outsides, and a middle), but have a talented freshman class, supposedly the no. 1 class in the country. Nebraska has won 7 straight in this series. If Big Red plays like they did against Illinois, the Huskers win in 4. If they stumble like they did against Minnesota, the winning streak probably stops.