In an earlier post, I mentioned that even though Ohio State had beaten Penn State early in the conference season, lately they had returned to earth. Early in the match on TV it became obvious why, when the BTN crew panned to the MASH unit at the end of their bench. Looking at the all the wounded, it was a mild miracle that they took Michigan to 5 and swept Michigan State two weekends ago at home. They got swept last weekend on the road to the Indiana schools, so it IS apparent that despite all the injuries, the Buckenidiots are a different / better team at home than on the road.
After 3 grueling losses you wondered if the Huskers would be a sluggish from the onset, but instead they jumped out to an early lead. A couple of items were noticeable early on for Big Red: 1) Sweet came to play and 2) Hames was going to continue what she did against the Gophers, and emphasize setting the middle. It probably helped that the two best middles for tOSU were among their injured cast. The Huskers only had one service ace, but were putting constant pressure on Ohio State causing poor passing and their setter to run all over the court. The Huskers only had 1 service error and 1 attack error in the 1st set and won easily 25 – 15.
I’m sure smarter people can understand how the momentum can shift so quickly in a match. I remain puzzled at the sudden change that happens to this team at times. The Scarlet and Gray had a few service aces early on to get ahead in the set, and then the Huskers found themselves in a five point deficit at 7-12. The Big Red dug themselves out of said hole and pulled to a slight lead 20-19. However, the set remained tight, a call got reversed at a critical point, and the Huskers once again figured out how to lose a deuce set. Stivrins made her only attack error of the night at set point which was more a bad set that she couldn’t do much with than a mishit. Probably the stat that illustrates the difference between set one and two was the attack errors jumped up to 7 for the Big Red in set two.
The momentum pendulum swung the other way and stayed solidly with the Big Red for the final two sets. The Huskers only had one service ace in the first two sets, but had 6 in the final two. The Nebraska block asserted itself. Hames really started to feed the middles again, after a slight respite in set 2. Foecke came alive offensively after having only 2 kills in the first 2 sets. Attack errors went from 7 in set two to 2 in the final two sets. But all those factors don’t adequately describe the delta between the deuce 2nd set and the absolute annihilation of the Buckenidiots in sets 3 and 4 by scores of 12 and 9. Can’t explain it.
When you review the fundamentals, the service game was effective even when the serves weren’t producing aces. The final serve game tally was 7 aces to 6 errors with Maloney having 4 of the aces. The Husker block was kinda “meh” even though they doubled the Scarlet and Gray in that department 10.0 to 5.0. Defense was once again the main pillar of the fundamentals, and while Maloney was off her game a bit in the 2nd set, she still had an excellent overall match. The Buckenidiots hit below .100 for the contest.
Offensively, the Four Horsemen of the Volleyball Apocalypse had a solid night with the exception of Sun. While the distribution was good (Foecke 29 swings, Sun 26, Sweet 23, and the Middles 32), Sun was the only attacker with a hitting percentage below .300. She was well below that line at .192. Foecke was solid, Sweet had her best match in 3 weeks, and the Middles showed again that they can be uber efficient when given the opportunity. Can’t figure out what’s up with Lexi Sun offensively. She is effective in her service game, and while she could be more consistent passing, she also gets a lot of digs. She’s too valuable in other areas to sub out. But her offense is suffering. On the upside, Stivrins was a monster with 16 kills on 19 swings and a .789 hitting percentage.
In the only other B1G action, Northwestern upset Iowa in 5 sets in Iowa City. That likely dooms Iowa’s chances for the postseason. Nationally, Texas swept Iowa State surprisingly easy at Ames, while Washington State picked off Utah in straight sets.
Next up for the Fightin’ Schwarzenbachs is a repeat matchup with No. 6 Illinois in the first home match since October 10th. This match is probably the biggest impediment to the Husker’s running the table in conference play, even more difficult than The Cult that Is Penn State coming to town a week from Friday. Hopefully, the Huskers can duplicate or exceed the effort they had in Champagne, and walk away with a “W.”