Match Notebook: How Did Nebraska Take Out Top Seeded Penn State?

  0 Derek Johnson | December 15th, 2017 | Big Ten, College - Women's Indoor, News

The Nebraska Huskers are moving on to the National Championship match on Saturday night, but how exactly did they take out top-seeded Penn State? Let’s do a set-by-set breakdown with a notebook from the match:

Set 1 (25-18, Nebraska):

  • Kenzie Maloney strong serving
    • Was a catalyst, really targeted Penn State’s All-American outside hitter Simone Lee
      • Regardless, Lee impressed offensively with six kills
    • Sure enough she got another ace to push Nebraska to a set point chance at 24-18
    • Wound up with 21 digs and four aces for the match as the libero
  • Nebraska hit .407, Penn State at .182 in the first
    • Lee had six kills (.500) for PSU. Rest of team had five and All-American middle blocker Haleigh Washington had none
  • Briana Holman continued to be unstoppable out of the middle (13 kills, .750 last meeting)
    • Five kills, six swings no errors in the first (.833)
    • In first four sets vs Penn State in 2017: 18 kills, 1 error, 22 swings (.773)
  • Penn State also having trouble stopping Mikaela Foecke and Kelly Hunter is all over the court
    • Foecke would end up with 19 kills, 19 digs and continues to play well in the NCAA Tournament (won the NCAA Tournament’s MOP in 2015)
    • Hunter did have some defensive struggles early, but more than picked it up and had 23 digs and six blocks for the match

Set 2 (25-23, Penn State):

  • Penn State passed much better
  • Penn State finally established Haleigh Washington, who had seven kills in the set alone
    • Big driving force was from passing because best opportunities for the middle come in system
  • Holman held to one kill on six swings and one error (.000) in the second
    • That compared to five kills on six swings with no errors in the first
  • Three straight Nebraska blocks gave them a 20-18 lead on a 4-0 run, but then Nia Reed subbed in for Penn State and got two straight kills
    • Those were her only two kills for the match
      • Played three sets, took six swings (zero errors)
    • 7-3 run after she came on the court
  • Penn State hit .262 in the second, held Nebraska to .189
    • More balance and continued success of Simone Lee

Set 3 (26-24, Penn State):

  • Nebraska had some problems passing in the third to start and trailed 10-5
  • What ended it? Kenzie Maloney serving three points as part of a 4-0 run to be down 10-9
  • Then defensive specialist Sydney Townsend took over after a Penn State serve error and helped the Huskers go in front 12-11.
  • The floor defense was advantage Nebraska as well, as they seemingly won a majority of the rallies and at least slowed down the Penn State offense
  • Penn State struggled with serve errors as well
    • 5 aces to 14 serve errors for the match
  • The Nittany Lions finally figured out the Maloney and Townsend serves late
    • A one possession kill on Maloney followed by a serve error from Townsend gave Penn State a 24-23 lead.
  • From there they were the victors of a few rallies and senior right side Heidi Thelen had some big kills and Penn State took it 26-24
  • Penn State hit just .189 in set three but held Nebraska to a match low .122

Set 4 (28-26, Nebraska):

  • While the Penn State serve was more wild and not quite as strong as Nebraska’s, it was also good in its own right and at times made the Huskers offense erratic
    • Helped them snag a 9-4 advantage early
  • Hunter Atherton added to the strong serving for the Huskers
    • Didn’t play in the first two sets but saw action in the third and beyond
    • Her serve comes from about as far back as you can go and is a standing float. Essentially the equivalent of a fast knuckle ball.
      • The distance of how far back she is and the line of the hit makes it a change of pace to the other servers too, and that difference was huge in getting two straight aces for a 14-13 lead
    • Wound up with four serve errors but those two aces and other serves that put Penn State out of system were vital
    • Nebraska head coach John Cook said in the post-game that even she doesn’t know where it’s going sometimes, but it can really keep the opposing attacks at bay
  • Four reception errors for Simone Lee in the third set
  • A 17-8 Nebraska run put them ahead 21-17 after Penn State once again gave up the early lead
  • Just like the end of the third, Penn State showed the heart of a Lion and won three straight to make it 21-20
  • Nebraska thought they had it at 24-22, but Penn State fought things off and even went up 26-25.
    • A net violation tied it/
  • The Huskers got clutch play from a pair of freshman as Jazz Sweet emerged at the end of the set and made it 27-26 before middle blocker Lauren Stivrins‘ kill ended it 28-26
    • Maloney was also serving for the last two points too

Set 5 (15-11, Nebraska):

  • Nebraska trailed 6-4, then Maloney had a run of four serves during a 5-0 run
    • Also included her fourth and final ace to push the Huskers in front 9-6
  • Then, after it was 9-8, Jazz Sweet got a kill to make it 10-8. That’s when Sydney Townsend took over and served a few points with a Stivrins block and Annika Albrecht kill for 12-8.
    • Albrecht wasn’t done and added another kill
  • Kelly Hunter fittingly got the final kill on a joust
    • Didn’t have her best assist match (47 assists, 9.4 per set), but was gritty throughout and represented the Nebraska team well
  • Penn State hit .133 in the fifth compared to .545 for Nebraska

The overarching theme for the match was Nebraska’s strong serving as it helped them overcome early deficits in several sets and go on long runs. It also helped them quiet the nation’s top offense to a .219 mark, well below the .339 they hit for the year.

Fueled by that serving and defense with balance and experience on offense, Nebraska will play for the National Championship on Saturday at 9 p.m. ET in the Sprint Center. Their opponent will be the Florida Gators in a rematch of a first week affair that Nebraska lost. However, it went five sets, was in Gainesville and Big Red was without Kelly Hunter. If you can’t catch the match live or on TV, you’ll be able to follow along with in-match analysis and thoughts from others in the volleyball world on our VolleyMob National Championship Live Blog.

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