Sweet with the kill. NU wins the 3rd set 26-24 and they win the match 3-0 (25-21, 25-21, 26-24). Congratulations to the Huskers who are now 1-1. Not a pretty match, but an ugly win beats a pretty loss any day.
Mikaela Focke's struggles ended with a definitive performance against Oregon. She carried the team offensively, much like Hall carried Florida the previous night. I listened to the game on radio (I currently don't subscribe to BTN plus, but may change my mind) and according to the announcers the difference between the Florida and Oregon matches was that Foecke was more decisive in her attacks and didn't force the action. Post game, Coach Cook indicated that the relationship between setter (Hames) and attacker (Foecke) was better, that with the improved sets, plus the fact the offense was 'in system' more often, Foecke was able see the defense better and able to utilize more tools to get the ball past defenders, including that powerful All-American right arm.
I did note that while Oregon did have some length, they couldn't trot out a front line that was 6' 6", 6' 7", and 6' 8" that a certain team from Gainsville could and did. That also may have been a factor.
While the passing and in system offense did improve, and while service and hitting errors were down, there were still substantial issues, particularly with the passing. Fortunately for Nebraska, Oregon had more issues, specifically with untimely service errors (see set points in games 1 and 2). According to the announcers, Oregon tries to 'run fast' offensively, which means quick sets and quick attacks. The advantage in doing this is catching a team slow to set the block resulting in more open lanes and easier kills. Another advantage is that very few teams operate as fast as Oregon, so opponents don't see this style much (see the service academies and option football) The disadvantage is that while this style of offense is high reward, it is also high risk, and resultantly high error.
In the 1st set, the Huskers again started out slow and sloppy falling behind by 5 (1-6) and 6 (9-15). And then the Oregon offense and service game went into melt down. Service error begat passing error begat hitting error........before you could comprehend what was really going on, the 6 point deficit had turned into a 5 point Husker advantage which they essentially maintained from that moment on to win the set. In the 2nd set, the Huskers established a 3 to 4 point lead early, and kept it throughout, largely due to Duck errors. Oregon would creep within 1 or 2 points, then shoot themselves in the foot with a serving mistake or, and this happened multiple times, a setting mistake by trying to go too fast. And, of course, the Ducks ended the 2nd set, as they did the 1st set, with a service error.
The 3rd set had better play by both teams (at least it sounded like it from the radio broadcast). It had longer rallies and fewer mistakes. Nebraska took an early lead, but Oregon eventually matched it, and the lead changed several times after that. Then the dreaded "overpass" cropped up again a couple of times for the Huskers, and Oregon looked poised to close out set 3 with a 24 to 22 advantage. But Nebraska, behind tough as nails serving from Stivrins of all people (she didn't serve last year....this is new for her), came back for a 26 to 24 set victory and the sweep.
Congrats have to go out to Sami Slaughter, who bounced back after a sub-par first game. Davis played ahead of her, but when Davis struggled, Slaughter came in and provided a spark, a role reversal of the Florida game. The competition between the two is close, and Cook mentioned post game that he would go with "whoever had the hot hand that night." Schwarzenbach had a good offensive night with several kills and no errors. Sweet never caught fire like she did against Florida. Fortunately Foecke picked up any slack. Stivrins also deserves some accolades, not just for her middle play but her performance at the service line with the game on the line. Post match, Coach Cook seemed very pleased with the development of the 'youngsters' and where the team was at progress wise.
Here is the article from Husker.com which includes the box score and the Coach Cook presser. I apologize if it is duplicating info contained in the tweets, but my VPN blocks twitter on this site for some reason.
Nebraska comes out of the VERT challenge 1-1 and they will fall in the polls, but probably not much further than 6 or 7. For perspective, Kentucky, ranked no. 5 prior to this weekend, went out west to USC for a 3 game tournament. They promptly lost to USC, Creighton, and Northern Iowa. I believe the 3 losses they suffered this weekend were more than they lost in all the regular season last year.
The three game tournament (Ohio, Santa Clara, and Wake Forest) coming up is probably the easiest week the Huskers will have this year in terms of competition. Ohio beat Albany, but lost to aTm and tOSU. Wake Forest lost to Air Force, UNC Greensboro, and Maryland. Santa Clara beat New Mexico, but lost to Idaho and Grand Canyon. Hopefully, everyone on Husker squad will get plenti-o-playing time (I'm looking at you, Anezka Szabo).