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2021 Season Notes

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B1G Pre-season Poll (Coaches vote)


1.         WISCONSIN
2.         Nebraska
3.         Penn State
4.         Minnesota
5.         Purdue
6.         Ohio State
7.         Illinois
8.         Michigan
9.         Northwestern
10.       Michigan State
11.       Rutgers
12.       Iowa
13.       (tie) Indiana
            (tie) Maryland


My take:

1.         WISCONSIN
2.         Nebraska
3.         Purdue
4.         Penn State
5.         Ohio State
6.         Minnesota
7.         Illinois

8.         Michigan
9.         Rutgers
10.       Northwestern
11.       Michigan State
12.       Iowa
13.       Indiana
14.       Maryland


Not a huge difference between my guesswork and the coaches. 

Wisconsin is still the big dog with both Hilley and Rattke back. The key is Hilley who was one of the two best setters in the nation last spring and the other (Madison Lilley of Kentucky) chose not to come back this fall.

Nebraska upgraded their deficiencies at opposite and libero plus added overall depth. Lack of depth at the pins was a problem last year. If Lexi or Madi struggled offensively last spring, there was no one on the bench to come in and provide a spark. Not true this year.

Very little daylight between 3 thru 6. Went with Purdue as they have EVERYONE of note back after making it to the regional final in the spring. Get the right draw in the tournament and this is a final four team. Penn State added two solid grad transfers in Pritchard (Maryland) and Rollins (Minnesota) to fill the need on the left side although they did lose one of the triplets (middle Gray transferred to Pittsburg) but they have the other two back (Parker on the right and Hoard in the middle). Minnesota at 6 as they lost the most (Rollins via transfer and Pittman in the middle who retired) and Schaffmaster has not proven she can consistently set the middle.

The top six will all host on the first weekend of the tournament.

Illinois has the best shot of the other teams of making the tournament, but they are thin and any injuries to their pin hitters could set them back to where they are on the outside of the bubble looking in. Michigan has talent on the left side (Mruzik and Jones) but other positions, particular setter, have questions. Not a tournament team, but if they get through their non-conference schedule unscathed, I may change said opinion.

The last six teams come in two tiers of three. In the first tier I chose Rutgers as they do have talent and finally learned how to win under their new coach in the spring after decades of abysmal failure. Northwestern has Thomas-Ailara and Cannon on the left pin and former Husker Megan Miller at libero, but they had to cancel a few games last spring for reasons other than COVID and reportedly their coach was suspended for those games. Internal strife?? Don’t know. That’s why they are behind the Knights. Cathy George at Michigan State appears to have lost her touch and is probably on the road to retirement.

Then the bottom three. Iowa at least has Buzzerio who is capable of a triple double on any given night, whereas Indiana lost their top newcomer (Stockham) to Cal Poly via the transfer portal and Maryland lost their one all-conference player (Pritchard) to Penn State.

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34 minutes ago, BigRedBuster said:

Soooo....I haven't been able to watch either game we lost.  But, what is wrong with the team?  Is it the issue that he's playing so many young players?


Also, I thought pretty much everyone was back from last year.  Who did we lose that has him playing so many new girls?  I know Stivrins isn't back yet.


Sun is back physically, but not mentally. And she's not terminating. As you said, Stivrins isn't back, and may not be back for several more weeks (mid Big Ten schedule). Hames was hurt, and while Evans was a decent fill-in, Cook is rolling with Hames as she recovers from her injury. Orr isn't up to speed after her knee surgery, so she's not a 100% option. 


Sun was rumored to be moving to the RS, but for some reason that hasn't happened. Cook has chosen to bench her rather than continue to play her on the left. Which is fine - if she can't or won't move, she's not the best LS hitter and she's going to sit. 


Cook has also been experimenting with his lineup all non-conference. I think we didn't play the same lineup in our first six matches. Last night he played a lot of Freshmen, and they struggled, but that's OK.


This year is all about getting the 2021 recruits up to college speed. If they contend for the Big Ten title that's great, but Cook is playing the long game, especially with Stivrins out. These girls will be ready for prime time next year.  They're already doing well enough - sweeping a Creighton team that had just swept Kentucky - but there's going to be growing pains as they develop (UNO, Utah & Stanford). 





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