Volleyball: #2 Nebraska vs #9 Stanford Preview

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#2 Nebraska (7-0) vs. #9 Stanford (4-2)
When: Tuesday, September 13, 2022, 7:00 p.m. (CT)
Where: Devaney Center
Video: BTN
Radio: Husker Radio Network

#2 Nebraska (7-0)

#1 Nicklin Hames 5’10” SR Setter/DS
#2 Kenzie Knuckles 5’8” SR DS/L
#4 Anni Evans 5’9” JR Setter/Serving Specialist
#5 Bekka Allick 6’4” FR Mo
#seven Maisie Boesiger 5’6” FR DS/L
#8 Lexi Rodriguez 5’5” SO DS/L
#9 Kennedi Orr Setter SO 6’0”
#ten Madi Kubik 6’3” SR OH
#13 Whitney Lauenstein 6’2” SO OH
#14 Ally Batenhorst 6’5” SO OH
#22 Lindsay Krause 6’4” SO OH
#23 Kaitlyn Horde 6’4” SR MB
#33 Hayden Kubik 6’2” FR OH
#44 Maggie Mendelson 6’5” FR MB

#9Stanford (4-2)

#2 Kami Miner 6’0” SO Setter
#9 Elena Oglivie 5’10” JR Libero
#10 Kendall Kipp 6’5” SR OH
#13 Elia Rubin 6’1” FR OH
#14 McKenna Vicini 6’2” JR MB
#17 Sami Francis 6’6” SO MB
#22 Caitie Baird 6’3” OH

Nebraska and Stanford are two of the most successful volleyball programs in the country. They are both consistently in the top 25 and almost always in the top 10. Stanford has won nine national championships, the last in 2019. Nebraska has won five national championships, the last in 2017. These are places young girls dream of playing volleyball; I know I did.

Nebraska is Stanford’s fifth consecutive opponent. Beginning August 30, they played and defeated then-No. 13 Florida in five sets. On September 4, they played and lost to No. 1 Texas in three sets. On September 9, they played then #20 (now #11) Penn State. Stanford lost to PSU in five sets. The following night, Stanford played then #3 (now #6) Minnesota and won in four sets.

These last two games really baffle me. Minnesota is a better team than PSU. How did Stanford lose to the Nittany Lions but beat the Gophers? Couple of theories. Stanford was motivated to beat Minnesota. The Gophers knocked out the Cardinals in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season. To prove that you are a better team than last season by beating the team that beat you last; it will ignite you.

Second theory. Stanford played at Minnesota’s Maturi Pavilion two nights in a row against PSU and Minnesota. Stanford has trained at this gym many times. Getting used to a gym can reduce mistakes. As players begin to feel more comfortable in a gym, their field of vision adapts to the background. Depth perception improves and serve and shot errors are reduced.

Statistics say that Stanford had three service errors on both nights, but in the loss to PSU they had 33 offensive errors and in the win over Minnesota they only had 19. Gophers are a better blocking team, 2.54 blocks per set, than the Nittany Lions. , 1.80 blocks per game. Against Stanford, PSU averaged 4.2 blocks per set. In this comparison, Penn State was the better blocking team against Stanford.

What this means for Nebraska vs Stanford tonight is: block questions. Nebraska needs to put a well-formed block in front of the Cardinals and let them make mistakes.

Stanford is starting a freshman, Elia Rubin on the outside. She is error-prone, as are most freshmen. Nebraska will serve him. She also makes mistakes. When she’s forced to pass and go and hit, she’s more likely to make mistakes.

Stanford’s other outside hitter is Caitie Baird. She was a second-team All American last season. She and libero Elena Oglivie will try to pass all those balls that Nebraska serves to Rubin. Baird and Oglivie are low-error passers.

Nebraska’s specific location serves things up. If they miss the slot and Oglivie or Baird are able to pass, then Stanford can execute a faster and more complex attack. Accurate and tough serves at Rubin.

Baird will get several sets as the first outside hitter. She normally has a low error as a hitter and will hit with good efficiency between .250 and .300 for the game. She is a physical hitter at 6’3”. She will earn kills tonight.

Baird is almost as physical as Stanford against Kendall Kipp. Kipp is a 6’5” senior who receives around 40% of sets. She hits on the right side and often out of the backrow. She is excellent. Kipp joined Baird as a second-team All American last season. She’s the heartbeat of this team and when Stanford needs a sideout, $100, heck, I’ll bet $1,000 the ball will go to her.

Sophomore setter Kami Miner executes a mostly balanced offense passing the ball to all five hitters. With a big hitter on the right side it would be easy to place Kipp but Miner shares the ball and that makes Stanford a better team. Miner is also an offensive passer and earns just under one kill per set.

Notes: Miner was the AVCA Pacific North Region freshman of the year, so she was in the running alongside Lexi Rodriguez for the AVCA National Freshman of the Year, which Rodriguez won.

In the middle 6’6” Sami Francis and 6’2” McKenna Vicini take their wins with averages of 2.09 and 1.18 respectively. Francis is the team’s top blocker averaging 1.65 blocks per set. Kaitlyn Hord averages 1.57 blocks per set.

Nebraska’s outside hitters have yet to face such a big, skillful block this season. They work in practice against large blocks and large brooms (training aids). The Huskers will strive to brush the ball out of the hands of blockers like they always do, but they will also try to stress the Cardinal block by moving hitters.

One of the reasons Coach Cook set Anni Evans and Nicklin Hames is because they both consistently put the same ball in the same spot and can set every type of set in the attacking pattern. This consistency and versatility allows Nebraska to execute a more complex offense.

When an outside hitter moves to midfield to strike, the opposing center block must choose who to block. If Nebraska’s setter is staring at the right player (setters work peripheral vision to see blockers and know when they’re moving), they’ve got a hole in the block.

Watch this video breakdown from assistant coach Jaylen Reyes to see Nebraska hitters stress Creighton blockers.

Buckle up for a battle at Devaney tonight. Nebraska faces the next level of competition in the country. They can definitely win this game, but they have to at least step up a gear, compete, react and adapt to the Cardinal tests. Nebraska will be tested. Individual players will be tested. The most important thing they need to do tonight is answer the test.

GBR!

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