Central Michigan came into Devaney with a 3 – 6 record and figured to be easy fodder for Nebraska, probably the easiest competition since Wake Forest in the Ameritas Challenge. But, for one set anyway, the Chippewas defense proved better than the record would indicate and gave the prohibitive favorites a bit of a tussle. There were several long rallies that put some stress on the Huskers, however, service errors (as in seven of them with no aces) plagued CMU in that first set and provided the margin of the victory.
The Chippewas defense was not as pesky the remainder of the match and the trio of Foecke, Stivrins, and Sweet continued to apply pressure. Added to that pressure was the continued self-inflicted service errors by CMU, and Big Red cruised in the final two sets resulting in a sweep.
Foecke and Sweet again got most of the swings, but Stivrins also got significant attack opportunities. In fact her 17 attacks were 2nd to Foecke and her 9 kills tied for the team lead. If Hames can continue the kind of distribution for the three headed offensive monster that she achieved against CMU, opponents are going to have problems reacting and setting effective blocks.
What remains a question is the 2nd outside hitter position. Who is going to step up to be that fourth prong in the offense? Davis had a subpar outing, enough that Coach Cook brought in Slaughter off the bench. However, Sami didn’t take advantage and continued to struggle offensively. Combined, Davis and Slaughter hit for an attack percentage of zero. Davis, who can jump out of the gym, has shown that she can be a force. She is simply too inconsistent from match to match, which you might expect from a freshman.
No, this year the Fourth Horseman will have to be Lexi Sun. Lauren Cook intimated that she (Sun) may play tonight against New Mexico. It would be nice for the rider of the pale horse to get out and work out some of the kinks prior to B1G play and the resultant step up in competition.
Schwarzenbach was almost invisible in the first two sets, but rallied “bigley” in the third. Cook mentioned in his weekly press conference that he felt Callie was on the verge of breaking out offensively. And while she didn’t have a “break out” match, she was effective on the attack and on the block in that 3rd set.
Speaking of blocking, it was almost non-existent for the Huskers in the first two sets. Then suddenly in the third, Big Red was blocking anything and everything. There were 3 straight points in the 3rd that were won by Nebraska blocks. I don’t know what the change was, whether Central Michigan was wearing down, or the timing on the Husker side just ‘got better,’ but the difference between the first two sets and the third set was stark.
The service game also picked up in that 3rd set. Stivrins seems to have at least one service set per match where the Huskers run off several points. And then Densberger trots out and throws down 3 aces in a row. I’ve been critical of Densberger’s play in the past, apparently without justification (with the exception of the Ohio match). Coach Cook seems very pleased with Hayley’s development. On a Husker N-side segment with John Baylor this week, the subject of Sydney Townsend was brought up and how she was critical (defense and serving) in the National Championship run of last year. Cook has picked Densberger to fill that role this time around. Then he said that Densberger was AHEAD of where El Syd was at this time last year. I nearly fellout of my comfy chair with the soft cushions. The bottom line is that I was completely wrong in my assessment of Ms. Densberger.
It was good to see Brooke Smith and Anezka Szabo get in and contribute. Szabo got the next to last point on a block and Smith served an ace to close it out. I hope they can become a strategic factor in B1G. I root for all the girls, but for some reason (not sure exactly why), I’m especially pulling for those two.
New Mexico is next with Cook eyeing his 700th win as a collegiate coach. The Lobos lost in a sweep to Missouri State (the third set was 23-25, so not a blowout) in the first match of the day. The Huskers and Lobos have played a common opponent in Santa Clara. Santa Clara disposed of New Mexico in straight sets.