Wisconsin came into the game with Nebraska with the reputation that has preceded / plagued them the past couple of seasons. A very talented group that can come away with solid victories over top-ranked teams coupled with inexplicable losses to mid-level teams. This year is no exception. Wins over Texas and Illinois have to make room in the won-loss stat to defeats by Baylor and Iowa.
The leader of the team is sophomore giant All-American 6’8” Middle Blocker Dana Rettke. The other middle is Tionna Williams who is a force in her own right. They will often set their middles more than they set their outsides. Rettke leads the team in kills and blocks.
The first set can be summed up by one Nebraska stat; 0 service aces and 7 service errors. Add in an additional 6 attack errors and Big Red is giving Wisconsin over half of the necessary points to win the first set for free. With so many errors, the block was non-existent. The errors were too much to overcome and the Badgers won set one 25 – 20.
The service game, while not great, did improve in sets 2 and 3 eliminating many of the free points given up in set one. With service aces now matching service errors, other aspects of the Big Red game improved. The block started to have an impact. Offensively, while they didn’t get into a rhythm, the Huskers did start to attack more effectively. Most of the damage was done by Sun and Foecke, with the middles contributing when they were set. Neither team had even average offensive stats, largely because both teams were excellent in keeping the ball off the floor. But by reducing the service and attack errors, Nebraska was able to make several mini-runs, punctuated by a huge 10-1 run to finish the 3rd set, and won the next 2 sets comfortably 25 – 19 and 25 – 17.
With the momentum clearly with Big Red, the offense decided to completely disappear in the 4th set. The block for the Badgers steadily started to assert itself (really started in the 3rd set). Whether you place the blame on Hames or on a poor passing game, the Husker attack became predictable. Nebraska had a total of 6 kills in the entire 25 point set, no doubt a season low. The Badgers cruised to a 25 – 17 4th set win.
Bucky flipped the momentum script in the 4th, and refused to relinquish MO in the 5th. The offense for Nebraska remained inept, and really, the Huskers incompetence on offensive precluded a continued great defensive effort by Big Red. Wisconsin ran off a mini-run of 5 to 1 to close out the 5th set easily 15 to 8.
The Four Horsemen of the Volleyball Apocalypse did NOT strike much fear into the minions. Foecke hit .203 but the remainder of the cast did not hit above .125 (the middles). The distribution was again centered around Foecke (59 attacks) and Sun (56 attacks) with Sweet (30 attacks) and the middles (33 attacks) lagging far behind. Sweet is mired in a slump for some reason. She has hit essentially .000 in three of the last four matches. Offensively, Big Red hit for under 0.100. An amazing stat with this offensive talent. Such a poor offensive showing SHOULD NOT HAPPEN with this talent.
When you look at the fundamentals, the serve was awful and cost the Huskers set 1, was slightly above average in sets 2 and 3, and then slightly below average in the last 2 sets. The block was absent in set 1 for reasons discussed previously, but did make an impact in sets 2 and 3. But the reality is that the opposition block grew stronger as the match grew longer, the third match in a row in which this phenomena has happened. While the Nebraska block did get into double figures, the Wisconsin block had a numerical advantage of 13.5 to 12, and was more effective. Defensively, you can’t fault the Huskers in their effort and result. Big Red lost the match, but actually improved on their nation leading opponents hitting percentage. Go figure. Maloney, continues to amaze with her ubiquitous presence, defensively, on the court. The fact that she hasn’t won a B1G defensive player of the week is absurd.
Another bad loss for the Huskers. They were the more talented team again, but let the match slip away after going up 2 – 1. In this match, they let an inspired defensive effort succumb to an inexplicable, inept, offensive exhibition. “Curiouser and Curiouser.” Last week some mentioned that it looked like the Huskers were fatigued at Cultist Valley in the 4th and 5th. On TV, I saw Foecke breathing harder than normal, but I saw several of the Lions looking tired, particularly Weiskircher, White, and Reed. This match I saw more of the same; fatigue on both sides. To me (and my opinion may be totally off base), the difference is not fatigue, the difference is this Husker team collectively gets a little tight when the match is on line, then collectively gets a little tighter and tighter. They do not play by the “point by point” mentality that was so prevalent in last year’s team. Last Year’s Team: We screwed up, no big deal, we play the next point to the best of our abilities. And the next. And the next. And the next. And then we hoist the B1G title and National Championship Trophies. This Year’s Team: Not so much. They need to internalize that “point by point” mentality.
In other B1G play Illinois beat Michigan in 5 in a battle of ranked teams. Penn State has the week off by playing the Russian North American National Team aka Rutgers twice. They won the first exhibition match on Wednesday and play the second tonight. Nebraska is currently in a 4 way tie for 3rd place in the conference.
Nationally, some action comes this weekend. In the ACC, the only match of THE ENTIRE YEAR between ranked teams in conference happens this Sunday between Louisville and Pittsburg at Pitt. THE ENTIRE YEAR. Compare that with the B1G and PAC-12. In the PAC-12, an interesting battle between Stanford and Oregon at Eugene, happens on Sunday.
Speaking of conferences that have only two ranked teams…………….In the Big East, Creighton and Marquette don’t play until October 26th, and in the SEC, Florida and Kentucky don’t play until “Hallows Eve.” Let’s pause for a moment, and talk about conferences THAT SUCK.
For Nebraska to have a chance at the B1G title, they need to beat Minnesota tonight. Then they have to hope an Illinois, Penn State, or Wisconsin have a great night and beat a good Gopher squad. THEN they have to hope that Minnesota has an off night against a Michigan or Purdue, and incur another loss. A lot of ‘hoping’ going on. But until I see the final in the Gophers favor, I believe this team has the capability of extending this B1G race. It will take an effort similar to the Illinois match, and a much better and more complete effort than what the Huskers displayed against The Cult That IS Penn State or the Badgers. OBTW. I cannot remember the last time a Husker Volleyball team lost 3 straight.
Regardless of what happens against the Gophers, this Husker team has a huge upside they only occasionally have tapped into. Even if the Fightin’ Schwarzenbachs are effectively eliminated in the B1G race, they have the talent and potential to make a deep, DEEP, DEEP tourney run. I hope they beat the Rodentia, but if not, I still look forward to rest of the season with this squad.
Not a good enough team right now.....struggle to pass the serve with any consistency...and that's not good when passing to a Freshman setter, no matter how good she may have been in high school. Damn...two matches where we were up 2 to 1 and could not finish….crap...