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  1. Hate to see Szabo go. Best block on the team, and by all indications, a great teammate. Never developed enough offense to get more playing time. With Davis and Szabo gone, that leaves two scholarship slots open for 2020, one of which is Kalynn Meyer. Hard to believe but there is a top player in the 2020 class which hasn't committed yet to my knowledge. Sophie Fischer, a 6'5" outside from South Carolina decommitted from North Carolina and I don't believe signed with anyone on November 13th. The schools vying for her are now apparently all B1G. Maryland, Penn State, Minnesota, and the Huskers. Another website said she made an official visit to Nebraska recently. She was South Carolina Gatorade POY as a junior, but I'm not sure if she repeated that title this year (or if they have even announced the winners for 2019).
  2. This post is written from a perspective of a fan who is over 500 miles away and has no contacts on the team or remotely related to the team (no insider info). Most (essentially all) of the content is observation and speculation, both from a distance. Hopefully some die hard volleyball fans will be willing to wade through the content and provide their own insights. Congrats to Stanford and their gaggle of senior All-Americans for the Color Cardinal’s ninth title. An incredible four year run which even surpasses the Foecke / Maloney era at Nebraska. Four straight final fours and three titles in four years. Ultimately, last year’s championship was the difference between Plummer era at Stanford and the Foecke era in Huskerland. 3 points. 29 feet. Congrats to Wiskey for winning the conference and making a run to the NCAA Championship, but not so much for their performance on the biggest stage. Stanford came out and punched them, then toothless Badger went into the corner, whimpered, and covered up. A complete dichotomy of how they were playing up to that point. Apparently there is no Foecke-like person in the Wiskey roster to gather the troops together, breathe deeply, and punch back with some heavy, heavy kills. The pressure of B1G play should have prepped them for the occasion, but apparently “wetting the bed” is not solely reserved for playing Ohio State in early November. Believe it or not, the results of the Nebraska Volleyball 2019 season were average to maybe even slightly below average. Which is the ridiculousness the state of the program is in since Cook took over in 2000. 29½ victories 4 defeats, regional final. That is an average year for Nebraska Volleyball. Cook has 588 wins and 80 losses in now 20 seasons at the Husker helm. So 28 and 5 and making the regional final could be considered a slightly below average season. The caveat to that is the B1G is a much tougher conference than the Big 12 was back in the day, even though the Big 12 was a much better conference in the first decade of the century than it is now. The fact the Huskers ended up 5th in the final AVCA poll is a minor irritant. Nebraska was unlucky enough to get paired with another B1G foe in the regional finals while Minnesota drew the Texas regional and the obviously overrated Shorthorn squad from the inept Big 12 conference which didn’t even make their own final. Nebraska beat Minnesota on the Golden Rodents home floor in November. The Big Red should have been rated above said Rodents at 4, but really, that IS the definition of “quibbling.” I thought the big hole to fill this season would be the crater left by Foecke, and to be clear, it wasn’t completely filled, particularly Foecke’s physicality. However, I was pleased with the improvement Lexi Sun made from her sophomore to junior year. Some of that can placed on her health (the sophomore season was one coming back from injury), but much can be placed on her improvement in shot variety and selection. And I was more than pleased with the maturation process of one Madi Kubik. Probably a difference in 70 to 80 points in hitting average at the start of the year to the end of conference play. I don’t know how much she can improve physically, but she has all the other intangibles to becoming the next Nebraska outside with National team pedigree. The hole that I thought would be easier to fill turned out to the biggest deficit between the 2019 version and 2018 team. I underestimated the impact that Kenzie Maloney had on the overall defense. I admit that Kenzie Knuckles is a talent and I don’t want to denigrate her play, but there is a significant disparity between a freshman and an All-American senior who toiled behind arguably the best libero in Nebraska history in HER freshman and sophomore years. For a refresher, go watch replays of the 2018 Kentucky regional semi-final match and the 2018 Oregon regional final match. Maloney’s play is stunning. Karch Kiraly was doing color for those matches, and quite frankly I’m surprised Maloney didn’t get an invite to the National team tryouts, given all the “issues” the US National team has with the libero position. The middle’s probably took a minor step back in 2019, but that is for explainable reasons. With no Foecke, Stivrins became the object the opposition’s attention for a large chunk of the year, getting doubled much of the time and allowing the pins more one-on-one situations. Schwarzenbach was hobbled offensively by her broken thumb and the ungainly club on her hitting hand. That impeded any progress she could have made offensively, which still makes that portion of her game an unknown. With Capri Davis departing for UT@AustinSucks, it appears that any serious competition at the opposite is gone. But with Jazz Sweet’s level of play in the latter half of the year, it becomes more of a non-issue. Jazz has always been an underrated blocker in my book, but her offensive output in the 2nd half of the season was encouraging. She probably benefits the most from the diversity in the offense resulting in single blocks as opposed to doubles. I do wish she would watch the absolute fearlessness (and viciousness) that Annie Drews (opposite on the National team) plays with and try to emulate it. That would take Jazz to the next level. Nicklin Hames is a talent, but just how extraordinary a talent remains to be seen. My gut tells me she isn’t a Poulter or Carlini type talent (the top two setters on the National team which happen to come from B1G schools), but she may rival a Kelly Hunter (who “only” got POY recognition from both PrepVolleyball and VolleyMob her senior year). There was an improvement from freshman to sophomore season (even with the additional duties of being a captain), but there were also times that connections just weren’t there, particularly with the middles. She is clearly the best defender at the setter position in the NCAA, but she is also a liability as a blocker when she rotates to the front, even though she did make improvements in that area of her game. The absence of Banwarth on the staff will have an impact on the team especially with the development of the libero (Knuckles) play. There is no doubt Knuckles, Miller, Hames, and Densberger (and even Kubik and Sun) could have used another year of tutelage from Kayla. However, the big shoes to fill in the future for the next assistant will be recruiting. The 2021 Class is shaping up to be one of the all-timers in Nebraska volleyball history and Kayla was largely responsible for those recruits. Schools being able to communicate to new recruits and make offers has been delayed by new NCAA rules, but the 2022 class official visits can start on September 1st of 2020. I’m not sure how the new rules apply to the volleyball camps the Huskers host during the summer. Nebraska already has one commit with Bekka Allick (apparently that commitment beat the new timeframe that the NCAA established), but the new assistant will need to be able to step in immediately and start establishing relationships with the high school juniors targeted by the Husker staff. 2020 is shaping up to be another Final Four year for the Huskers. As is often mentioned, the Big Red is returning everyone. No one graduates. With the continued improvement of the pins (Sun, Kubik, and Sweet), this should be a team that has a hitting percentage at or near .300 which should put it top 5 nationally. Last year Nebraska ranked 8th in the nation for opponents hitting percentage, so one would think another year of maturation should improve that standing. Top 5 in hitting percentage and in opposition hitting percentage (especially in a conference as competitive as the B1G) should spell an uber successful season with a deep run in the tourney. It will be interesting how Riley Zuhn on the pin and newcomer Kalynn Meyer in the middle fit into the rotation (if at all). I don’t know if there is someone else on the outside that would allow Riley Zuhn to redshirt, but in the long run that may be the better option than having her play a handful of sets as she did in 2019. There is some commentary on other websites that Meyer “isn’t ready” and “is a ways off.” I don’t know how accurate those assessments are, I just know she is an extraordinary athlete. All-American volleyball, All-State basketball, and her excellence at the throws in track and field is nothing short of astonishing. Her discus throw of 176’08” at state (as a junior in high school) would have placed her 2nd at the 2019 B1G outdoor track & field championships. And for those questioning the compatibility of those marks, the weight of the disc for women’s high school events is the SAME as the collegiate and international weights. Meyer is strong, but NOT built like a typical thrower you see in shot and discus (a heavier body type). She is built more like Stivrins and looks like she can put a hurt on a volleyball and anything that gets in it’s path on the way to denting the floor. If Meyer can develop a power offensive game early and if Schwarzenbach continues to struggle with that part of her game, it would not surprise me to see Meyer substituted in spots where an offensive spark is needed, with Callie rotating in when the emphasis is on blocking and defense. Callie is too gifted defensively to completely shut out of the rotation. The 2020 volleyball scene looks bright for Nebraska, however, the top of the B1G is shaping up to be among the elites nationally (again…still). It may be more definitive than last year and closer to the dominance of 2018. It would not surprise me to see Wisconsin, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Penn State ranked in the top 5 in the pre-season AVCA poll. Stanford loses too much (their highly ranked freshman didn’t get much seasoning this year), Texas will be ranked behind the B1G teams mainly due to the disappointing end to the season and their inability to win late in the tournament the past few seasons. The only other team that may join the B1G teams in the top 5 is Baylor which has 2 first team All-Americans returning (Lockin at setter and the freak that is Yossiana Pressley, AVCA POY on the outside), but they lose Stafford, their 1st team All American middle. Wisconsin loses their opposite (Duello – All-Conference 2nd team) and libero (Clark All-American Honorable Mention in 2018), but returns setter (Hilley All-American 1st), outsides Loberg (AA - HM) and Haggerty (AA – 2nd), middles Hart (AC – 2nd) and of course potential POY Raddke. They have three highly touted recruits coming in (Hammill at setter, Robinson in the middle, and Demps on the outside), but outside hitter Jade Demps is likely the only one to significant playing time in replacing Duello at opposite. Minnesota loses one outside (Hart – AA 3rd), one middle (Morgan – AC 2nd), and sometime injured setter (Miller), but returns a setter that saw significant action (McMenimen), middle Pittman (AA – 1st), outside Rollins (3rd on the team in kills and kills/set), libero McGraw (AA – HM) and opposite Samedy (AA – 2nd) who is another POY candidate. The notable recruits incoming include outside Landfair (6’4” No. 1 overall recruit by PrepVolleyball), outside Weenas, and setter Shaffmaster. Landfair probably sees time right away. The Rodents will have a decision to either go with a setter with some experience in McMenimen or their highly recruited 6’3” freshman in Shaffmaster and take the lumps the B1G learning curve requires. The Cult that IS Penn State loses White (AA – 2nd) at libero and their team leader for the past two years, and a gaggle of their defensive specialists, but return a ton of talent. This includes Parker at opposite (AA – HM), Hord in the middle (AA – 1st), Gray in the middle (AA – HM) and Gabby Blossom at setter (AC – 2nd). The outsides were 4th and 5th in team kills and only Cathey (5th in kills) returns. It will be interesting to see who steps up to the leadership role and to see how significant the loss of experience on the back row affects Penn State’s defensive play and stats. The Lions do have three recruits that might see significant playing time in defensive specialist Bilinovic (replacement for White?) and outsides Fitzpatrick (6’1”) and Van Den Elzen (6’4”). The Cultist are still pursuing 6’4” outside Sophie Fischer (South Carolina Gatorade POY) who recently decommitted from North Carolina. She has also visited Nebraska, Minnesota, and Maryland. It appears she didn’t commit on November 13th and has not signed. In summary………The top tier of B1G teams is stacked. The next tier of B1G teams includes Michigan and Purdue. I expect that they will be in the top 16 and hosting on the first weekend of the NCAA tournament. THE Buckenidiots should be much improved and possibly a top 25 team, if the coach can get out of his own way (he has done it before). Michigan State and Northwestern should compete for tournament berths with Indiana being more of a longshot to make the field. I see Illinois dropping dramatically and being in the bottom third of the conference. And I’ll miss the robotic arm and general fearlessness of one Jacqueline Quade. It will be more difficult to win the B1G than to make the Final Four. As has happened in 7 of the past 8 Final Fours, I expect multiple B1G teams to make it to Omaha. The only question is how the selection committee chooses to distribute the B1G teams in the bracket. In 2018 there were 5 B1G teams in the top 8, and 4 ended up on the same side of the bracket. The asininity of the selection committee never ceases to amaze. The top teams in the B1G for the 2020 season are good enough that if they start out in separate regions, it would not be surprising (albeit not likely) to see Omaha shaping up as a Final Four B1G tournament. But I’m sure if that possibility comes up, the selection committee will screw it up. My predictions for the 2019 season weren’t particularly prescient. I had Stanford winning (who didn’t), with the Huskers 2nd in the tournament. I had Wisconsin and Nebraska a coin flip in the B1G, with Minnesota 3rd and Penn State 4th. The Rodents and The Cultist did better than I anticipated, especially with the loss of their setters from the previous year. I had the Illini 5th but still in the top 10. I knew the loss of Poulter would be big, but I didn’t see the loss to be canyon-like big. I nailed the Shorthorns, but missed on Baylor, which played solidly all year. Pitt was a much better team than last year, however playing in that crappy ACC conference hurt them in the tourney (that and an inexplicable seeding). I didn’t forecast Creighton to be in the top 10 discussion (or even top 25) much of the year after losing Kloth and Winters. Kudos to Coach Booth and her ability to sustain the program at such a high level. Of course, I really missed on Oregon. I thought they would separate themselves from the other PAC-12 teams and complete with the Color Cardinal. They ended tied for 2nd to last in the conference at 5 – 15 (9 – 20 overall). Very odd. Congrats to the 2019 version of Husker Volleyball. It is a likeable team; the players are easy to root for and the consistent excellence the program exhibits is admirable. But with consistency produces expectations. Anything less than a Final Four in 2020 will be considered a disappointment (and I’m shaking my head as I type that sentence). Here’s to the Fightin’ Schwarzenbachs making it to a 9th straight regional final, and a 5th Final Four in 6 years. #DestinationOmaha
  3. And where the volleyball program makes a profit for the athletic department. As opposed to the women's basketball program which is in the red in the amount of 1 - 2 million dollars annually. Yes, you have to look at other schools, conferences, and sports to determine the appropriate market rate for a specific coaching position. But Nebraska Volleyball is an outlier. At this point, I believe Nebraska Volleyball still is the only Olympic sports team that is profitable to the their Athletic Department in NCAA college athletics. Not even the Connecticut Women's Basketball can make that claim. And this has been the case since volleyball has moved into Devaney. I've made the argument that Cook's salary should be closer to 1 million a year, based on the profitability of the volleyball program. I hope with this next round of facilities upgrade that Moos looks at expanding Devaney for volleyball, and starts to look at revenue streams for beach volleyball. I think Nebraska fan will support it.
  4. If you're looking for a recent player to fill the gap, I would look at Wong-Orantes. When she was a player, Cook would sometimes just have a conversation with her in "coach speak" with the rest of the team in the background, her knowledge of the game was that advanced. She was a grad assistant on a couple of men's teams (Long Beach State?), but this fall she is overseas playing pro. Brings alot to the coaching side, no idea if she brings anything to the recruiting side. Having no specific insight to the program, and literally being thousands of miles away, I don't think it will be either Hunter or Wong-Orantes. Maybe in the next iteration of coaching changes. Of course my dream pick would be Jordan Larson. But she is not ready to retire yet. She is still playing at a high level and still commanding good money. And she really wants the gold in the 2020 Olympics to cap off one of the more incredible careers in indoor American Women's Volleyball history. Congrats to Kayla. The SEC is reading the tea leaves and realizing that women's volleyball will overtake women's basketball within the decade. Their conference is gearing up for it and is trying to play catch up with the B1G. The SEC has the money to do it. The PAC-12 should be on notice. Their TV contract sucks by comparison, and I can't tell you how many times I tuned into a PAC-12 match being played on a basketball court. Let's see, I could go to a school that has volleyball only facilities and thousands of rabid fans for home matches, or I could play on a marked up basketball court in front of hundreds. Not a difficult decision.
  5. The absence of Davis this year may have inadvertently pushed the development of Kubik along. Early in the season (before she got hurt), Davis was subbing in for Jazz when she rotated to the left pin, and subbing quite a bit for Kubik when Madi rotated out of the back row, particularly if Kubik was having issues with the block. With Davis injured, Kubik had to stay in and figure out how to get her shots down, which she did as the season progressed. Still there were matches where Kubik or Sun were just 'off' and it would have been nice to have someone as explosive as Davis come in and jack a couple over the block. Her leaving probably doesn't impact the team as much with the improvement of Sun and Kubik on the outside. Like most Husker fans, I dislike Texas, but it is a good spot for her to land, since it is a premier volleyball program and it is closer to home (see McClellan to Auburn and Atherton to North Carolina for less desirable transfer spots). The fact that Cook trains his outsides to be 6 rotational players is probably another reason Elliot, the Texas coach, saw Davis as being a valuable add. For the first time this year, he (Elliot) had two outsides that were 6 rotational players. He probably liked the latitude it gave him substitution wise. I know either last year, or two years ago, in an early season match against Stanford, he got caught at the substitution limit in an extended set, and had to rotate a shorter defensive specialist through the front row which ended up costing him the set and the match. Also, Elliot probably didn't like that Lexi Sun left Texas because she didn't feel he (Elliot) was preparing her for the next level. You have to be a six rotational player to play overseas as a pro or to play on the National team. There are no pin hitters on the national team from Texas. There are four from Nebraska. As someone mentioned in a previous post, good luck to Capri. Not so much for Texas.
  6. Being seeded at 5 is probably one higher than I thought Nebraska would be. I am disappointed (again) that the committee didn't try to avoid all B1G regional finals (last year was Illinois - Wisconsin and Nebraska - Minnesota except that the Gophers choked in the regional semis). For as unfavorable as the regional final match up is, the 3rd round match is actually pretty good with Hawaii as the 12 seed. Wisconsin has it even better with aTm somehow being selected as the 13 seed. My guess is that aTm doesn't make it out of the 1st weekend (see the Rice Owls). As far as the top 4 seeds, I didn't think that the committee would reward a crappy conference like the Big 12 with two top seeds. Not only did they reward the conference with two top seeds, they rewarded them with THE two top seeds. Pitt also plays in a crappy conference (the ACC) but the reality is that the Big 12 has ZERO depth. But instead Pitt gets a 6 seed, has to go to the West Coast for the 2nd weekend, AND has to play the 8th ranked Penn State squad that somehow ended up an 11 seed even though they finished tied for 2nd in the B1G at 17-3. This is the 'reward' Pitt gets for being 29-1 in a power 5 conference (albeit a weak one). The committee places too much reliance on the RPI. The RPI actually rewards teams in weak conferences. Baylor beating a 11-5 Oklahoma squad looks a lot better than a Wisconsin beating a 7-13 Oklahoma squad, which is what the Sooners record would have been if they played in the B1G (and that's probably being generous). Other observations. Penn State at 11 is a joke. Washington at 15 - 5 in the PAC-12 should not be the 8 seed over Florida, Kentucky, and Penn State. Again too much weight on the RPI and too much credit for wins over Wisconsin in September when the Badgers were in the middle of a four game losing streak. Oklahoma in the tournament over California is also puzzling. 10 -10 in the PAC-12 and 20-10 overall is a better resume' than 11-5 in the Big 12. Plus California swept Oklahoma 3-0, even though that was also a September match. Oklahoma beat literally no one of substance. They split with Iowa State and lost twice to Baylor and Texas in conference. As mentioned before, they lost in 3 to California, in 3 to Colorado State, and their "best" victories in non-conference where 5 setters over Oregon State, Indiana, and Arizona State. Iowa State in the tourney is even more mystifying. 8-8 in the Big 12, and with only one solid win in non-conference over Northern Iowa, and losses to UCF, Penn State (in a sweep), and LSU. The Big 12 should only have two reps. In the first weekend I don't see a ton of upsets, but probably more than last year. As mentioned before, look for Rice to come out of the aTm group. I also like Colorado State over 8 seed Washington, and San Diego over 12 seed Hawaii setting up a rematch with the Huskers. Marquette and 16 seed Purdue is a coin flip, and I would like to jump on the Illini bandwagon with Jacqueline "Swing Away" Quade, but I think they've actually regressed in the past few weeks. Losing to Northwestern on the final game of the regular season is not a good look.
  7. I didn't see this one coming. Another for the class of 2021. In volleyball recruiting, this would qualify as a 'late add'. Welcome one Whitney Lauenstein, a local from Waverly, to the Husker volleyball family: https://www.omaha.com/sports/college/huskers/teams/volleyball/waverly-junior-whitney-lauenstein-fulfills-a-dream-by-committing-to/article_f0dc1290-b13e-5aef-99db-d49224a1dd6d.html This one is a bit confusing to me. i assumed, going by the numbers, Ms. Lauenstein would be a walk-on, but she is indeed a scholarship player. This is the 2021 class currently (at least what I've been able to keep track of): 2021 Alexis Rodriguez DS SCH 5’ 04” U18 USA Team 2021 Lindsey Krause OH SCH 6’ 03” U18 USA Team 2021 Kennedi Orr S SCH 5’ 11” U18 USA Team 2021 Rylee Gray MB SCH 6’ 04” 2021 Ally Batenhorst OH SCH 6’ 04” Made USA tryouts 2021 Whitney Lauenstein OH SCH 6’ 02” The 2021 class is loaded. Four of the six were invited for the U18 USA National Team tryouts and three of the six actually made the team. That team won the gold in September this year by the way. Again the numbers don't add up to 12 scholarship players (they actually exceed by a couple). The Huskers should be losing 3 scholarship players after 2020. And I don't know the rules well enough to know how a medical redshirt counts against the total number of scholarships. Anezka Szabo already has a medical redshirt and would otherwise have exhausted her eligibility in 2020.
  8. Even with Meyer being the only scholarship player, it is still going to be a crowded field in 2020. No one is slated to leave, so a scholarship player will have to red shirt. The only other player that was recently in Nebraska's sights for this class was Lauren Ware, a two sports star out of North Dakota. Her scholarship was going to be in basketball, but she wanted to play both sports. She ended up committing to Arizona. This class won't be highly ranked, but the 2021 class will likely be a top five, if not the top ranked recruiting class in the country, assuming all the verbals remain committed.
  9. USA Women's team claims silver at at the FIVB World Cup. https://www.teamusa.org/USA-Volleyball/Features/2019/September/29/US-Women-Claim-World-Cup-Silver-with-10-1-Record Much like other World Cups, this is a once every 4 years event. Unlike other World Cups, the women's volleyball is a round robin affair with the top 12 ranked teams in the World. Every team plays every other team and the winner is the one with the best record / points total / points/set winning percentage. China was unbeaten, and the US came in at 10-1 to claim 2nd. Couple of observations. Poulter is now the number one setter on this team. Pretty amazing considering the competition. Beating out Carlini is impressive considering she (Carlini) is a legend in her own right and was largely responsible for Carli Lake, who set team USA to bronze in the last Olympics, to resign from team USA. Kiraly is still experimenting but I think he realizes that the TEAM plays much better with Larson and Robinson on the outside, even though Hill and Bartsch-Hackley may be more physically imposing. He started Larson and Robinson on the outside in 7 of the 11 matches and often in the tougher matches. Additionally, I think Kiraly is starting to crack on his insistence that Courtney is his libero. Against Russia, in a match that was crucial in securing the silver, Kirachy started Wong-Orantes (3 Nebraskans starting --- Robinson, Larson, Wong-Orantes). Kelsey Robinson was selected as outstanding outside and Andrea Drews was selected outstanding opposite. Drews continues to rack up the accolades, but Kiraly seems to have a short hook for her, especially when Thompson is available. 14 were on the World Cup roster, only 12 are allowed on the Olympic squad. My guess is you go down one middle and only carry one libero. The 3 middles are probably Ogdobu, Washington, and Akinradewo (coming back from a pregnancy). The four outsides are Robinson, Larson, Bartsch-Hackley, and either Hill or Foecke. The setters are Poulter and Carlini. The outsides are Drews and Thompson. The libero is an unknown. Courtney has been marginal at best. Wong-Orantes may not be that far removed from making the team. Regardless of who makes it, Robinson becomes the emergency libero. That group has more than a puncher's chance at a gold in 2020. Larson has a silver (2012) and a bronze (2016). I hope she gets her gold.
  10. Comments on the red-white scrimmage Apparently not a sell out, but a pretty impressive showing for Husker fan as a volleyball scrimmage still manages to pull in the upper 7K in attendance. I do feel sorry for the players that had to endure the autograph session that followed the match. When they showed a clip of The Line for autographs, my writing hand instinctively started cramping up….a “sympathy” cramp as it were. It may be prudent next year for the team to autograph a few thousand group pictures prior to, in order to better manage the adulation onslaught. I would think that you would particularly want the “real life” interactive to be selective towards young girls who idolize the “big girls” on the team. It seems like Frost did something similar this year for Fan Day in football i.e. pre-signed some autographs but catered to younger fans at the actual event. It is poor form to couch all the subsequent comments with a caveat, but here it goes anyway. It is one day, one match. And not even a real match but a scrimmage amongst yourselves (we talkin’ practice) where nearly eight thousand friends just also happen to show up. But to come away with any dramatic new insight on this team seems like reaching a bit. And perhaps myopic. Particularly since all said “insights” are made by LISTENING to the match without the benefit of seeing it. The BIG story was the play of Capri Davis. 19 total kills with most of those coming AGAINST the Red squad. Per the coach, this KILL explosion is a rather recent development. On Thursday in practice, Ms. Davis went off and became nearly unstoppable. Whether this is a new level of play as the result of hours of practice and repetition, or this is just an athlete who is ‘in a zone’ for awhile and will eventually return to norm, remains to be seen. Davis had moments last year where she looked the part of a starter (see Creighton and 18 kills in a 5 set match), but she was too inconsistent. She (Capri) is an athlete on the freakish side (probably not Jordon Thompsonesque, but next level freakish) who was a bit raw coming out of high school. If the pieces are starting to fit together for her, then stand by for the pyrotechnics. I just happen to disagree with the announcers (John Baylor and Lauren Cook West) that you slide her into the rotation at the outside position. Put Capri at opposite, and if you absolutely want a lefty at right pin, then put in Jazz for one rotation, almost an inverse of the rotation Capri and Jazz did last year. Admittedly the views held for Ms. Sweet are largely based on her underwhelming performance last year. But the chatter on the audio broadcast was also underwhelming. Reports that she “struggled to get kills” in practice don’t engender thoughts of a breakout season. For the rest of the good, Hames distribution and the offensive presence of the middles was a solid positive, especially this early. Stivrins was perfect on offense (7 for 7, no errors) and Callie had double digit kills. That was a point of contention for most of last season (get the middles more involved) and now it simply is part of the game plan which should open up the pins. Sun and Kubik should benefit from this strategy. There was even some back row attacks from both sides (hats off to Nicole Drewnick for setting one early for the white team). Even with the loss of Foecke, the offense should be more efficient with Hames maturation in running the show. The USA National team could take a page from this offense. Coach Cook was also effusive in his praise of Riley Zuhn, particularly the fact she has dual roles as a middle and as an outside attacker. She’s a big girl that looks like she could pound the ball hard enough to make it (or you) cry. But she is also developing into an all-around player (digging, passing) that Cook can rely on as a six-rotational player for depth purposes. In fact, the head coach seemed more than pleased with the incoming freshman and the contributions and competitiveness they brought to practice, and the team in general. Lexi Sun had a solid game on the outside with 11 kills, but a hitting percentage below 0.300. Madi Kubik struggled a bit both attacking and passing. Probably a slight case of the yips since she (along with Kenzie Knuckles) was hyped as one of the best passers on the team. The not so good was the number of service errors. A 6/23 ace to error ratio won’t win many games in December. But this is a scrimmage in August and probably the biggest crowd that many of these freshman have played in front of, maybe by a factor of multiples. The only good thing to say is that I don’t recall any of the errors being serves into the net. They were aggressive errors i.e. often serves just a tad too long. It will be interesting this coming week to see who starts against Creighton. My opinion (that doesn’t matter by the way) you start your best seven, which, based on a very limited snapshot, appears to be Stivrins, Schwartzenbach, Sun, Kubik, Davis, Hames, and Knuckles with a flip of the coin between Densberger and Miller on who the first defensive specialist off the bench is (that will probably vary match to match and geared to whomever is serving better). Start Davis at opposite and if you feel the need, occasionally sub in Sweet when the position rotates to the right front (rotation 1). The B1G pre-season rankings should come next and just maybe the remainder of the TV schedule. Seems a bit late, but that may be due to the B1G agreement with Fox Sports (BTN2GO and BTN plus are now BTN +…………?). I had to laugh at an article on the NCAA website where a writer was ranking the five most likely teams to possibly go undefeated in route to a national title in volleyball this year in which he included Stanford (clearly the best team in their conference), Texas (plays in a weak conference), BYU (see Stanford), Kentucky (tougher conference than previous years and they play Florida twice this year), and …….wait for it……Illinois. Talk about randomness. https://www.ncaa.com/news/volleyball-women/article/2019-08-23/di-womens-volleyball-teams-best-chance-undefeated-2019 The writer goes on to talk about Quade (legitimate POY contender) and that the Illini return 7 of the top 9 rotational players. But he fails to mention the 2 that aren’t returning were All-Americans and that one of the All-Americans happened to be the setter (Poulter) who only ran the ENTIRE offense and is so good that she is now essentially the 2nd best setter on the National team. As Nebraska fan can attest to, a POY caliber setter is not a hole likely to be filled by a transfer from Auburn.
  11. Not much of a difference in the initial rankings with how the season ended last year. If you overlay the final poll of the 2018, it doesn’t take a lot of manipulation to come up with the pre-season poll. In fact, Louisville is the only team in the top 25 in the pre-season that wasn’t in the final top 25 of 2018. Not sure if this is a lack of imagination on part of the voting coaches, or if teams at the top are just doing a good job of recruiting and training to maintain the status quo. Stanford at the top is not surprising to anyone. They had 5 All-Americans on the floor against Nebraska in the finals and return all of them with the exception of middle blocker Tami Alade. Then they go out and get an All Pac-12 middle transfer from UCLA. Then they go out get the no. 1 recruiting class for 2019. The Color Cardinal are stacked and loaded. While the Pac-12 is a tough conference, it clearly isn’t the grind at the top that the B1G is. Stanford is a cut above everyone else. But you have to admire the Color Cardinal. They don’t duck anybody. Stanford opens non-conference play with a couple of ho-hum opponents, then they have Florida, Texas, Penn State, Minnesota, Nebraska and BYU to close out the non-conference portion of their schedule. All pre-season top 10 teams. Almost like a B1G schedule in the middle of October. The Pac-12 has 5 other teams in the top 25 occupying positions 11-25 and 2 other schools receiving votes. Last year was a quagmire for Pac-12 teams in the bottom half of the top 25 with each taking turns beating up on each other. At one time, there were 7 teams ranked from 14-25 with two others receiving votes. Oregon and USC ended tied for 2nd in conference with 13-7 records. This year, it will be slightly different as Oregon has the horses to break out of the pack and hang around the top ten most of the year. For the other schools……… it’s more of the same mosh pit with the weekends characterized by 5 set matches and plenti-o-upsets. Nebraska at no. 2 is not as clear cut as Stanford is at no. 1, but is largely there because of the “Cook Factor” and the reality the Huskers have made 4 final fours in a row. Plus they did have the No. 2 recruiting class behind Stanford. The top five B1G schools that finished in the top 10 last year, are also ranked in the top 10 this year. There might be some disagreement on who slots where, but putting Minnesota at no. 3 makes sense if you’re just looking at the number of returning All-Conference players. However, after experiencing the growing pains of replacing a POY caliber setter in 2018 for the Huskers, I believe that Minnesota replacing Seliger‑Swenson, Illinois replacing Poulter, and to a lesser extent Penn State replacing Weiskircher is going to be tougher sledding than people might expect. Particularly in the first half of the season. I would probably flip Wisconsin and Minnesota. I would probably also swap Penn State and Illinois as the orange & blue lost All-American middle Bastianelli in addition to Poulter. Michigan and Purdue are also included in the top 25, but no other B1G team is even receiving votes. The B1G will be a deeper conference this year and I expect teams like Ohio State, Maryland, and Michigan State to compete for tournament berths with Iowa and Indiana as dark horse picks. In 2017 the SEC was a two team conference with no one else in the picture. Last year, the two teams were challenged a bit. And while it is still Kentucky’s and Florida’s conference to lose this year, there are even more teams getting into the competitive mix. Look for Tennessee, Missouri, and South Carolina to be in the top 25 discussion along with LSU and their no. 10 recruiting class. And it won’t be long before aTm and their 200 + million dollar athletic budget starts participating in the volleyball ARMS race. The SEC is an improving conference as opposed to ……………. The ACC is again down to Pittsburgh and Louisville with the Panthers gunning for a hometown visit to the final four. And while Florida State is a consistent presence in the NCAA tournament, this conference, surprisingly, is not a very good volleyball conference. The ACC has one final four appearance in tournament history (Florida State in 2011) which is the same as UT@Arlington. If Dani Busboom can somehow maneuver through the pig sty that IS Louisville Athletics (The Bird Cardinal), she could have a chokehold on this conference for years to come. Texas again has a lot of returning talent, again has a highly regarded recruiting class, again is the prohibitive favorite in the B12, again is ranked in the top ten, and again will find a way to squander a title run. Texas did win the title in 2012, but are 1 – 7 in final fours since 2008. Baylor also is a very athletic team, however, they are maddeningly inconsistent. They will beat a top 5 Wisconsin team, then within 24 hours lose a match to something called UT@Rio Grande Valley formally known as Pan American University (go fightin’ Vaqueros????). With a year of seasoning along with a good recruiting class, a young Kansas squad should also compete for a tournament slot. It will be interesting to see how TCU’s top 5 recruiting class translates to the court. Iowa State is another possible tournament entry albeit more of a long shot. BYU is again in the top 10 and has a chance to make a statement early in non-conference play with matches against Stanford, Texas, and Marquette. Last year I called the West Coast Conference the “Conference That Sucks” because BYU was plowing through it effortlessly. That depiction was sorely inaccurately as the West Coast Conference placed 4 teams in the Tournament and 2 (San Diego and BYU) made the 2nd weekend (the sweet 16). It appears that BYU, Loyola Marymount, and San Diego are again in contention to make the Tournament with Pepperdine being a team to watch. There is little to no depth to this conference after those 4 teams. The Big West and the Big East are similar to the ACC in that there are one or two contenders will be in the top 25 all season long but the remainder of each conference is largely non-competitive. Cal Poly is the bell cow of the Big West with perhaps Hawaii providing some competition. The Big East has Marquette and Creighton and ……….nobody else. The advantage of a weak conference is that a team can post an inflated win – loss record and get an inflated ranking. The disadvantage of a weak conference is that the AVCA poll will punish the hell out of a team than finally succumbs to a loss in said weak conference, at least they did last year. The AAC doesn’t have a team in the top 25 but has two teams that made the NCAAs last year in UCF (undefeated in league play) and Cincinnati (the team with the best player in the nation – Jordan Thompson - assuming she doesn’t go pro after her electric performance on team USA in the VNL and the Olympic Qualification Round Robin). Tulane will also compete for a tournament spot as they made the finals of the 2018 NIVC (the women’s volleyball equivalent of the NIT) and had a top 25 recruiting class. Wichita State was down last year after having to replace multiple All-Americans on the 2017 squad, but I don’t anticipate the Shockers will be down for long. The remaining conferences (including the Missouri Valley) are probably represented by a single entry i.e. the conference winner in the NCAAs. Missouri State and Northern Iowa have the potential to get multiple berths from The Valley, but it is not likely. A more detailed look at the B1G teams will occur when the B1G announces their pre-season rankings. Is a 6’01” transfer from Auburn enough to replace Poulter at setter and feed Prince and Quade at Illinois? Does Coyle from Iowa recover from her knee injury to be able to lead the Hawkeyes to a Tournament berth? Do new facilities and a top 5 recruiting class propel Ohio State into the top 25? But back to the national discussion briefly and specifically as it relates to the Huskers. The pre-season poll looks to be more of the same from last year. Nebraska at no. 2 is a good start for the Huskers but will be hard to hold on to with the competitiveness of the B1G.
  12. Admittedly this is just CBS Sports version on the All-Time All American teams at the 150th anniversary of the sport. But for Nebraska fan, it is a fond look back at the excellence of the past: https://www.cbssports.com/college-football/news/college-football-turns-150-all-time-all-america-team-features-the-games-greatest-ever/ As the article states, four Nebraska players and five positions on the first team, 2 more than anyone else. Nebraska also has 3 on the 2nd team and 2 "honorable mentions." Like most all-time lists, there is a certain amount of recency bias, but this list isn't too bad in that regard. 1st team - Frazier, Rimington, Suh, Rodgers (two positions: punt returner and all purpose player) 2nd Team - Will Shields, Rich Glover, Alex Henery Receiving votes - Aaron Taylor, Dominic Raiola The one name that sticks out to me not on the list for Husker fan is Bob Brown. I was too young to remember much of his college days, I just know he was the Baddest O-Lineman on the planet in the late 60s and early 70s.
  13. This news is a little dated but with the upcoming season upon us, the 2019 NCAA Division 1 recruiting rankings as determined by "an elite group of Div 1 coaches" is as follows: https://volleyballmag.com/2019-ncaa-womens-recruiting-rankings/ Stanford is 1 and Nebraska 2. Per the article there is a "gap" between the top two and Oregon at 3. As far as B1G teams, the Buckenidiots are 4 and Purdue is 7. They only picked the top 10 but the usual suspects made "honorable mention" namely Penn State, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois. Not only did Ohio State recruit well, but they are moving into new digs as is Indiana. And remember Northwestern just got new facilities in the last half of the 2018 season. A veritable volleyball ARMS race in the B1G. TCU is the big surprise in the top 10 recruiting list at 5. I thought it was amusing that the author had to point out that Texas was in the top 6 for the 4th straight year. There are two edges to that sword. Yes Elliot can recruit well in fertile recruiting grounds, but he recently is losing players also. The prime example is 2017 Gatorade POY Lexi Sun. And there have been others. He has someone on the Texas staff that can coach up the middles well, but there isn't a ton of Texas players (other than middles) on the USA roster.
  14. A new walk-on was added to the 2020 commit list. Abby Johnson, a 6'4" Middle Blocker / Outside Hitter is the newest Husker. https://journalstar.com/sports/huskers/volleyball/attending-two-nebraska-volleyball-camps-this-summer-earned--foot/article_e8f4a409-95c9-5a5b-9660-340a4db77c35.html#tncms-source=infinity-scroll-summary-siderail-latest By my count, that is three committed, one more potential commit on a basketball scholarship and one de-commit. 2020 Madi Endsley OH SCH 6’ 03” To Washington 2020 Kalynn Meyer MB SCH 6’ 03” 2020 Lauren Ware MB / OH BB 6’ 05” (Not Committed 2020 Annika Evans S WO 5’ 09” 2020 Abby Johnson OH / MB WO 6’ 04” SCH is scholarship player, WO is walk-on, and the BB designation means Ms. Ware would count against the basketball scholarships. Again, the team currently has 12 scholarship players and no one graduates. A lot of things can change in a year, but right now a scholarship player will have to redshirt in 2020.
  15. As noted in the previous post, The US swept Argentina 25-22, 25-17, and 25-13 to punch their ticket to the 2020 Olympics. See the article for more detail and for an unofficial box score: https://www.teamusa.org/USA-Volleyball/Features/2019/August/04/Olympics-Bound-US-Women-Claim-Ticket-to-Tokyo Kiraly went with the same line up that finished against Bulgaria including Larson and Robinson on the outside. I started watching the match, but unfortunately found out that Hulu still hasn't figured out how to buffer live sporting events. It literally locked up after a Thompson kill in the first set that put the US ahead 12 to 11. Even after multiple resets, uninstalls and installs, on both Roku and FireStick, the NBC channel would lock up at the same exact place. So a word of caution for those of you who, like me, don't watch a lot of TV, but subscribe to a streaming service to watch the fall sports. Make sure that if you subscribe to Hulu, pick out a live sporting event during the trial period to see if you have "issues." This is the 2nd time I'll cancel out of Hulu because they can't get live sports right. I was hoping that after two years they would finally figure it out. My internet connection is plenty fast enough (65 - 70 mps) and I don't have that problem with Playstation Vue or YouTube TV. I would try Sling TV but they don't have BTN which, obviously, is a deal breaker. Streaming issues aside, just looking at the box score, it appears that the pins again had most of the attacks with the middles once again MIA offensively, although not to the degree of the first two matches of the tournament. Thompson had another solid outing at opposite, even though she started the match with two hitting errors and anther attack getting stuffed in the first three attempts in the match. And under the "I may be slow, but I'm not very bright" category, I finally figured out that the reason Ogbugo wasn't starting at the middle was she didn't make the trip even though she was on the roster initially. I was looking at the team photo following the win over Bulgaria and saw she wasn't in it. Then I looked at the box score and she wasn't even listed. I know she was on the roster for the tournament so she must have been a late scratch. Of course, they didn't mention anything about her missing in the first two telecasts nor can I find out any info as to why she wasn't there. Anyway, congrats to team USA and, of course, in particular to Robinson and Larson who both played key roles in securing the qualification berth.
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