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2019 Season Notes

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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.




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.

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I think everyone assumes we'll lose to Stanford in the middle of September.

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Date    Visiting Team    Home Team    Time (ET)
September 18, 2019    Stanford    Nebraska    8:00 PM
September 27, 2019    Nebraska    Illinois    8:30 PM
October 5, 2019    Wisconsin    Nebraska    8:00 PM
October 11, 2019    Michigan State    Nebraska    9:00 PM
October 25, 2019    Nebraska    Indiana    8:00 PM
October 26, 2019    Nebraska    Purdue    8:00 PM
November 2, 2019    Penn State    Nebraska    8:30 PM
November 6, 2019    Northwestern    Nebraska    9:00 PM
November 22, 2019    Nebraska    Minnesota    9:00 PM
November 24, 2019    Nebraska    Wisconsin    2:30 PM

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This is interesting. Apparently replaces the VERT Challenge, where Nebraska, Florida, Oregon & Texas played at each other's sites four years in a row.




Note that Kentucky is coached by former Husker assistant Craig Skinner, while Louisville is coached by former Husker standout and assistant coach Dani Busboom-Kelly.

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I'm not going to get too geeked up about a non-conference matchup with a traditional power. Win or lose, this match really means nothing in the long run. What matters is winning six games in the NCAA Tournament.


Cook knows this. Hambly knows this. Neither really cares if they win this match. What they care about is the experience, and the coaching they can do after.


But that doesn't mean it's not a big deal when the Cardinal comes to town.


Let's get a little bit rowdy.



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I think the crowd will be juiced and I think Cook and Hambly will coach their guts out, but I think neither really cares about the result of this match. 


What matters is winning six matches in the postseason.

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